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St. Edward, VASJ to play for state basketball titles

Brian Parker leads VASJ to the brink of another state championship
Brian Parker leads VASJ to the brink of another state championship
Joshua Gunter/The Plain Dealer

".....two outta three ain't bad"

The Cleveland area took three teams to Columbus this weekend looking for state basketball championships. While Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary fell to Columbus Bishop Watterson 56-51 on Thursday, both St. Edward and VASJ turned in dominant performances last night and will play for state championships tonight.

St. Edward v.s. East Tech

The Eagles took on the Scarabs of East Tech in the first Division I semi-final. While the Eagles were supposed to be here, the Scarabs had put together quite a Cinderella run to the final four. In succession, they had beaten defending state champion Mentor, preseason favorite Shaker Heights, and state ranked Uniontown Lake.

The clock struck midnight against St. Edward

The Eagles used a blazing start, jumping out to a 28-12 lead after the first quarter, and never looking back. They would end up shooting 72 percent from the floor for the game and cruising to a 89-64 win over the Scarabs. Junior Kipper Nichols led the Eagles with 25 points on 9-12 shooting. The St. Edward bench provided a big lift, getting 20 points from Will Meyer and 14 points from sophomore Derek Funderburk. It may have been the Eagles finest performance of the season.

It speaks a lot about this team. They are so focused and so intent about trying to get it done tomorrow....St. Edward coach Eric Flannery

East Tech was led by Anthony Carmon with 16 points, while Johnell Free added 15, and freshman sensation Markell Johnson added 13. East Tech was affected by the loss of guard KT Taylor in the second quarter due to a sprained ankle. While it certainly hurt the Scarabs, St. Edward was just too good last night. Despite the loss, it was a magical run for the Cleveland public school.

This was my goal from when I took over as a coach eight years ago, to get to Columbus. We want to be known as a great program, not just in the Senate League, but across Northeast Ohio and now we have state notoriety. Give credit to St. Edward. They were very, very good tonight....East Tech coach Derek Moore

St. Edward will take on Upper Arlington, a 74-49 winner over Trotwood Madison, in the state championship game tonight at 8:30 p.m.

VASJ v.s Columbus Bishop Ready

If any game would resemble the tortoise and the hare, it would be the game between VASJ and Bishop Ready. The Vikings of VASJ average nearly 80 points a game, and want to get out and run. The Silver Knights of Bishop Ready haven't allowed 60 points to a team all year. So, whose pace would the game be played at?

Well, Ready still hasn't given up 60 points to an opponent, but they ran into a team in VASJ that gave them a dose of their own medicine defensively

Brian Parker scored 12 of his game high 17 points in the second half as VASJ held Bishop Ready to just 32 percent shooting, in slowly pulling away for a 55-40 win. The Vikings will look to become the first team to win state championships in all four divisions when they take on Lima Central Catholic today at 4:30 p.m. The seventh ranked Firebirds advanced with a 63-44 win over Cincinnati Roger Bacon.

The key to the game for the Vikings may have come from the least heralded of their five junior starters. Point guard Maurice Johnson, who averages just over two points a game, scored 11, as Bishop Ready dared him to shoot.

I'm going to prove them wrong. My teammates tell me to shoot so I do.... VASJ's Maurice Johnson

Junior Carlton Bragg, one of the top juniors in the country, chipped in with 11 points and 7 rebounds. Bragg talked about playing the type of slow down game the Ready made the Vikings play:

A game like this brings out your character. We had to get stops and we had to trust and play off of one another....VASJ's Carlton Bragg

State Finals Predictions.... Both Cleveland area teams should win, but it won't be easy. St. Edward not only has to take on a 27-1 Upper Arlington team, but also has to take on its crowd. Each school was given 4900 tickets to each game. Almost all the time, schools don't come anywhere near selling that many. Upper Arlington had to request another 1500. The crowd will be loud, but St. Edward is the better team, and should win. VASJ will play a team in Lima Central Catholic that plays the way VASJ wants to play, which is up and down the court. VASJ proved in the semifinal that they can win a number of ways. The Vikings are too talented, and will take home a state title also

St. Edward 70, Upper Arlington 62

VASJ 75, Lima Central Catholic 60

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