COLUMBUS - Paced by a stifling defense that forced 17 turnovers and a scrappy double-double from junior Anthony Moeglin, Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas claimed a hard-fought 54-41 Division IV state semifinal victory over fourth-ranked Canal Winchester Harvest Prep Thursday at Ohio State’s Jerome Schottenstein Center.
Making their first state tournament appearance in 38 years, the Knights (18-11) had three different players score in double figures despite shooting just 35 percent from the field (16-of-46). Moeglin, who nabbed 11 points and 14 rebounds in the victory, spurred a stingy Knight defense that entered the game giving up just 53.1 points per outing.
Sophomore Jacob Paul drained all nine of his free throw attempts in the contest on his way to a game-high 15 points scored in the game while 6-3 senior Jacob Paul chipped in 11.
“We were prepared to play a basketball game where they pressured us,” commented Knight mentor Matt Hackenberg of his team’s defensive output, holding the Warriors (26-2) to 1-of-15 shooting outside the arc. “We kind of had to flip the switch and do what we like to do against softer man-to-man defense.
Added Moeglin: “Before the game we looked like a deer in the headlights and coach said ‘you’re 17-11, you have nothing to lose.’ Now we’re in the state championship game.”
Harvest Prep (26-2), making their first state tournament appearance since finishing as Division IV state runners-up in 2007, managed just 15 points in the second half after going into the halftime break tied at 26.
“It wasn’t our night offensively. We couldn’t score,” noted Warrior head coach David Dennis, Sr. “Going against St. Thomas, if you don’t score they take advantage of that. I think we got some stops we needed to but we didn’t capitalize on them. When they got stops, they capitalized.”
Dennis’ son, David, Jr., led Harvest Prep with 12 points in the loss, their first since a one-point defeat to Newark Catholic on Dec. 16, snapping a 20-game winning streak.
St. Thomas Aquinas advances to the Division IV state title game on Saturday, taking on the winner of top-ranked Convoy Crestview (27-0) and No. 2 New Madison Tri-Village (26-1) at 1:30 p.m. in Value City Arena.