COLUMBUS – Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph was huge.
Its front line had 6-foot-8 Dererk Pardon and 6-10 Carlton Bragg.
In the end, that didn’t matter.
LCC’s front line of 6-2 Jake Williams, 6-4 Dantez Walton and 6-4 Cory Stewart was up to challenge.
While VASJ’s big guys were extremely athletic and flew to the basket, LCC’s front line was fearless.
LCC’s combination of Williams, Walton and Stewart never backed down.
That was a big key in LCC winning its second boys basketball state championship with a 64-62 victory over Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph on Saturday at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
“It came down to footwork and heart,” Williams said. “It took a lot out of me, but it’s all worth it. There’s nothing like it.”
Williams ended up with 12 points and seven rebounds. He hit 5 of 6 from the field.
“We knew coming in against 6-8, 6-10, that’s no joke,” Williams said. “But my dad (assistant coach Ron Williams) told me, Dantez and Cory and Ethan (O’Connor) that we were the game. We knew if they were going to get offensive rebound after offensive rebound, we weren’t going to win this game.”
Added LCC coach Frank Kill, “Dantez, Jake and Cory Stewart really stepped up with good minutes and good fouls. … They were 6-10 and 6-8 and that’s pretty hard to guard. But our three guys were not going to back down from any challenge.”
Walton had four points and seven rebounds.
“The main part was to get a body on them and limit them to one shot,” Walton said. “That’s pretty much what we did. We tried to do beat them to the spot because our big men were quicker with their feet.
“We were trying to get them frustrated and all I know is it’s a great feeling.”
Stewart had four points and hit 2 of 4 from the field. Stewart’s second basket, a 10-footer from the right side gave the T-Birds the lead to stay, 53-51, with 3:36 to play.
“I’m so glad I made that,” Stewart said. “X (Xavier) gave me a great assist. I hit the shot, and I was so happy I did it.”
Stewart said he wasn’t intimidated by the size of the Vikings.
“We all play AAU. We play against guys like this,” Stewart said. “Our team has heart. We really don’t care about height or size. We know we can play with anybody. We weren’t scared. Our team had the quickness, definitely the quickness.”
Back to a zone
LCC rolled out a 1-3-1 zone in the state semifinals, but in Saturday’s state championship game it was the 2-3 zone that helped slow down VASJ.
LCC went from its favorite man-to-man to a 2-3 to start the second quarter. The T-Birds remained in the 2-3 until the final minutes, when it switched to a 1-3-1.
“We probably played eight minutes of 2-3 all year,” LCC coach Frank Kill said. “I believe you have to focus on your main defense, and we’re a man defense, but you have to have to be able to change and make the game-changing move. We exploited the 1-3-1 yesterday, and I’m sure they were ready for a 1-3-1. And today our man wasn’t working, and we were fouling way too much. And in order to protect our guys and also to force them from the outside, we had to throw that (the 2-3) in.
LCC’s Martyce Kimbrough was named the most outstanding player on the Associated Press Division III boys all-tournament team.
Joining him on the team were teammates Xavier Simpson and Williams, along with Bragg and Pardon.