COLUMBUS — The trophy was in the arms of 6-foot, 8-inch Demonte Flannigan when Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph walked out of the Value City Arena in their blue blazers and khaki pants an hour and a half after beating Leipsic 87-63 in the Division IV boys basketball state championship game on Saturday.
But it took the arrival of a little guy before Villa Angela-St. Joseph could finally shake Leipsic and claim the trophy.
Defying the predictions of many that this could be a one-sided game from the start, Leipsic was matching VASJ almost shot for shot and was within two points, 41-39, three minutes into the second half.
But when 6-foot, 1-inch Villa Angela-St. Joseph sophomore Simon Texidor entered the game, things changed dramatically.
It wasn’t all his doing, but when Texidor dropped in two 3-pointers within 28 seconds of each other in the third quarter, all the momentum seemed to go over to VASJ.
It went on a 23-8 run over the last 4:47 of the third quarter, took a 64-47 lead into the fourth quarter and was in control the rest of the way.
Leipsic coach Scott Maag called Texidor’s 3-pointers “huge” and said, “We knew he’d come in as a shooter. He was their guy to come in and shoot the basketball.
“He hit some big threes and we had to get out to him. That allowed them to get some driving baskets and when they got to the rim, they really attacked it.”
Duane Gibson’s 22 points led five players in double figures for Villa Angela-St. Joseph (25-4). Flanagan had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Texidor finished with 11 points.
Devin Mangas (18 points), Austin Brown (16 points, nine rebounds) and Caleb Barerra (10 points) led Leipsic (25-5).
Leipsic was making its first trip to a boys state basketball tournament. Villa Angela-St. Joseph won its fifth state championship and has played in 12 state tournaments.
VASJ’s four losses this season came against Division I schools. It won its six tournament games before Saturday by an average of 41 points.
Two of its starters — guard Duane Gibson and Flannigan — earned NCAA Division I scholarships from Evansville and Cleveland State. It started a 6-9 player and a 6-8 player and brought a 6-7 guy off the bench.
But Leipsic didn’t back down, even after falling behind 18-6 to start the game.
“We weren’t going to stop doing what we were doing all year,” Brown said.
What the Vikings needed to even things out against the taller, faster Villa Angela-St. Joseph team was to shoot the ball well.
But the shots weren’t falling (24 of 67 for 36 percent) and they connected on only four 3-pointers.
“We knew going in we had to hit some shots,” Maag said. “It came down to we needed to hit some shots.
“They’re good. You don’t have two guys going on Division I scholarships by coincidence. Their big guys were talented and their point guard (Gibson) is the best guard we’ve seen this year by far,” he said.
Villa Angela-St. Joseph’s state title was its first in Division IV after three in Division II (1992, 1994, 1995) and one in Division I (1991). Its last four state tournament appearances before this year were in Division III.
Most of the rest of Division IV schools around the state regarded Villa Angela-St. Joseph with all the warmth it would give an unwelcome house guest.
Apparently launching a pre-emptive strike against this sentiment, VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak brought it up in the first minute of his opening statement in the postgame press conference.
“We didn’t choose to be in Division IV,” Kwasniak said. “We’re in Division IV because our enrollment keeps going down.”
The Villa Angela-St. Joseph coach called Texidor’s 3-pointers “enormous” and said, “He just has a shooter’s mentality. Those were great shots.”
Flannigan said, “Leipsic was coming close. It gave us a lot of momentum.”
When Maag was asked if having two Putnam County teams in state championship games put northwest Ohio basketball on the map, he said, “Northwest Ohio basketball is always on the map. But the people in Ottawa are obviously going to be happier than in our town.
“These guys (Leipsic’s team) set the standard high for us. The bar has been set really, really high,” he said.