On Friday morning at Value City Arena on the campus of Ohio State University, the best Ohio has to offer at the Division II level faced off for a chance to make it to the state final. It started with an overtime thriller and finished with an dominating performance by St. Vincent-St. Mary High School out of Akron.
Circleville Logan Elm came into their game against Dayton Thurgood Marshall as the top-ranked team remaining in the state, and a team that played solid defense with good scoring punch. Early on in both halves it looked good for Logan Elm. Logan Elm jumped out to an early lead before Marshall was able to battle back to tie it up at halftime. But the third quarter belonged to Logan Elm.
Behind the strong play of Brandon Amann and Tim Congrove, Logan Elm opened up a 12-point lead on Marshall with just over six minutes to play. At that point is when Marshall went on what would be the biggest run of the game.
Marshall's Shawn Robinson got it going with defense. "I knew it was crunch time and we needed steals to get back into the game. I took it upon myself to get the steals," said Robinson.
With Robinson making steals and converting it for layups, Marshall was able to scratch and claw back into the game. Also the pressure being provided by Marshall rattled Logan Elm.
According to Marshall he could see it in Logan Elm's eyes. "I saw fear, so I took advantage of it."
Despite the play of Marshall down the stretch they were still down 48-45 with time running out. After a Juwan Staten offensive rebound, Marshall got the ball at the top to Robinson who launched a 3-pointer with a little more than six seconds showing on the clock.
The shot was pure, sending the game into overtime. About the game tying bucket, Robinson said, "The ball came to me and I knew I had to have it go in. I had to shoot it."
Once in overtime it was all Thurgood Marshall. A big reason for that was Staten. The University of Dayton commitment took control of the game - and he did it without scoring. "I knew once they switched to a man-to-man it wasn't their style of play. Once I got into the lane I knew they thought I would take the shot. With my big man going to the hole I knew I could dump it down to them for a layup," explained Staten.
The Cougars would outscore Logan Elm 14-5 in overtime to come home with an improbable 62-53 victory that propels them to the state title game on Saturday evening.
After Thurgood Marshall punched its ticket to the final, St. Vincent-St. Mary and St. Francis DeSales took to the court to figure out the other finalist.
Both teams are loaded with athletes and talent, but from the beginning it was St. Vincent-St. Mary that took control. The Fighting Irish got a strong performance from senior Michael Hammonds in the first half. While DeSales was riding the coat tails of Nick Kellogg, the Stallions just couldn't continue to trade baskets.
The Irish dominated the second quarter by the score of 22-5, and pulled away from the Stallions. The biggest reason was Hammonds and Daylen Harrison. The two seniors were on fire from the floor.
"As seniors we always ask ourselves the question of how many players can go out as winners in their last high school game," Hammonds said. "We just tried to go out hard and get it done."
According to Hammonds he got a few easy buckets to go down, and after that he felt in control of the game. "Once I got a couple of steals and scored some easy ones I got a 3-pointer to fall. I felt like it was game after that."
With a halftime score of 39-20, the Irish were in firm control as the second half was about to begin. When asked if they saw a dominating performance like that coming, Harrison said, "We didn't really see that coming. We just played really good in the first half. They cut the lead some in the second half, but we just had to sit down and play defense which we did."
DeSales did get back in the game a little behind 25 big points from Kellogg, but it simply wouldn't be enough. The lead never shrunk below six points, and St. Vincent-St. Mary ended up advancing to the finals with a 75-61 win.
In the game Hammonds had 25 points while Harrison had 23 points and nine rebounds. Joining Kellogg in double figures for the Stallions was senior wing Ike Ariguzo who had 13 points and five rebounds.
St. Vincent-St. Mary and Thurgood Marshall will now play it out for the division II state title.