COLUMBUS – Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph is packed with athletic ability.
And, at least in VASJ’s 55-40 Division III state semifinal victory over Columbus Bishop Ready, it didn’t need much else.
LCC (24-4) will meet VASJ (22-7) in the Division III state championship at 4:30 today at Value City Arena on the campus of Ohio State.
VASJ is the 2013 Division IV state champion, as it defeated Leipsic in the state title game last season, 87-63.
The Vikings can play in the halfcourt, but prefer to run the floor. They also roll out a 1-2-2 full-court press.
The Vikings’ top player is slender 6-foot-10 Carlton Bragg, who averages 18.6 points per game.
But Bragg was far from dominating in the state semifinal game. He played hard only in spurts and only showed flashes of his potential. He finished the game with 11 points and seven rebounds. He went 3 of 6 from the field and had five turnovers.
However, when he wanted to, he was able to get to the basket in quite a hurry and fly to the rim with his 6-10 frame.
Bragg had 10 points and six rebounds in last year’s state championship game.
Bragg isn’t the Vikings’ only inside-power player. There’s also 6-8 junior Derek Pardon, who is averaging 11.5 points. In the semifinals, Pardon had nine points, five rebounds and five blocks.
Brian Parker, a 6-2 junior, averages 17.7 points. He can score on outside jumpers, but can also drive to the basket. Parker had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the semifinal win. He had 15 points on 6 of 10 shooting in last year’s championship game.
Rounding out the Vikings’ starting lineup is 6-2 junior Simon Texidor IV (12.2) and 5-10 junior Maurice Johnson (2.0). In the semifinals, Texidor had five. Johnson had 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Defensively, the Vikings can play man or a 3-2 zone.
“Our guards have to be able to handle their pressure,” LCC coach Frank Kill said of the VASJ press.
ON THE INSIDE
While the T-Birds guards dominated play on the perimeter in the 63-44 semifinal win over Roger Bacon, LCC’s 6-2 junior Jake Williams and 6-4 forward Dantez Walton controlled play down low.
Williams finished with seven points and nine rebounds. Walton had three points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
That helped LCC outrebound Roger Bacon, 40-28. Roger Bacon’s 6-7 Fred Moore had nine rebounds, while 6-4 Carlas Jackson (16 point average) was held to eight points and six rebounds.
“We knew keeping them off the boards and getting second chances were going to be huge,” LCC coach Frank Kill said.
In the early going, LCC jumped out to a 7-0 lead and Williams had two quick defensive rebounds.
“I was very focused before the game and wasn’t talking to many people,” Williams said. “My dad (assistant coach Ron Williams) told me to attack. It’s about footwork and heart.
“A lot of guys just run to rim and jump up and try to outjump people for rebounds, but I can’t jump as high as those kids out there, 6-7, 6-4. I have to focus on my footwork and get position.”
Williams has also worked hard on being in the right place for each rebound.
“My dad and I have gone to the gym and he’ll put up 100 shots and I’ll just watch it and I’ll try to get to where the ball is going to go before it even hits the rim,” Williams said.
All the work paid off for Williams on Friday.
There were free throws galore in the Division III state semifinal.
Roger Bacon was 17 of 26 at the line. LCC hit 16 of 29 at the line.
The two teams combined for a Division III state tournament record of 55 free throws. The 55 foul shots tied an overall division record, set by Lexington and West Geauga in Division II set in 1989.
T-BIRD FAMILY STATE CONNECTIONS
The LCC brother combination Ethan O’Connor and Aiden O’Connor are brothers to Michigan State’s Ty O’Connor, who played on the 2010 state championship team.
LCC’s Nick Taflinger is the brother of Billy Taflinger, who was also on the 2010 team.
Jake Williams’ grandfather, Tom Williams, and Ethan and Aidan’s grandfather, John O’Connor played for the 1948 St. Rose team that reached the state tournament.