Eagles one win away from defending state title
Watterson 56, Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 51
The Columbus Bishop Watterson (26-2) train kept rolling on Thursday afternoon inside of the Value City Arena in much the same way the defending state champions have done it in its previous 53 wins over the past two seasons with a patient defense, timely offense, toughness, and execution in close games down the stretch. Head coach Vince Lombardo and his Eagles dropped the Irish in consecutive seasons, 56-51, in the state’s final four to set up a match up with once-beaten Norwalk.
The Eagles were tied with Akron St. Vincent- St. Mary’s at 44 early in the 4th quarter before Watterson closed the game on a 12-7 run behind 12 points from Matt Lehmann in the final frame. The senior, lefty was 8-of-8 from the foul line in the 4th quarter. Senior Andy Grieser added a bucket and a pair of freebies to account for all the points in the final eight minutes.
The Irish knotted the game at 42 on a free throw from junior Johnnie Robinson.
Akron St. Vincent- St. Mary’s got off to a championship start in the 1st quarter leading by as much as (9-1) thanks to senior Jalen Hudson and sophomore VJ King. King opened up the scoring by slamming home a backdoor lob. Hudson tallied seven points in the quarter.
Bishop Watterson quickly erased a 7-0 and 15-10 1st quarter deficit using a 12-0 run to start the 2nd quarter. Seniors Joey Diorio and Lehmann combined for three triples during the stretch. Diorio had 10 points in the period. The Eagles held the Irish to just six points in the stanza to take a (30-21) lead into the locker room.
Diorio led the Eagles in halftime with 10 points and Lehmann chipped in seven. Jalen Hudson kept the Irish within striking distance scoring a team-high nine points.
Watterson was 10-of-16 from the field in the 1st half, which included a 4-of-5 showing from deep, while the Akron SVSM was just 8-of-22.
The Eagles appeared primed to put the game away in the 3rd quarter on the back of three inside buckets from Matt Hughes, which resulted in seven points and a bevy of shot fakes. Senior Cody Calhoun knocked down a three-pointer during the stretch that had Watterson up (40-26).
Though, the Irish made a significant run to close out the 3rd quarter on an 8-0 run. Junior Josh Williams converted an old fashioned three-point play, Hudson knocked down a shot behind the arc, and senior Jarel Woolridge scored in the paint to cut the deficit to (40-34) heading into the final frame.
Hughes (11 points) and Diorio (10 points/7 rebounds) were top support for the Eagles. Calhoun and Grieser evenly split 16 markers.
Hudson paced the Irish with 18 points on just 6-of-15 shooting. He added five boards. Williams chipped in 12 points, and King notched eight counters on just 3-of-13 action shots. King totaled a game-high eight rebounds.
Watterson shot 51.5 percent from the field compared to just 36 percent for SVSM
Stat of the Game
Akron SVSM was just 5-of-20 from three-point range.
Player of the Game
Matt Lehmann scored 19 points on 4-of-6 shooting and a 9-of-10 showing at the foul line, and grabbed five rebounds.
Akron SVSM never appeared to show a sense of urgency, and settled for too many perimeter shots.
Photos by Gary Housteau (JJHuddle.com/Bucknuts.com)