COLUMBUS — The Eagles of Lakewood St. Edward trailed just once in their Division I state semifinal matchup against Cleveland East Tech at Ohio State’s Schottenstein Center Friday, but there was no doubt of who was the best team.
St. Edward (25-2) shot a blistering 72 percent from the field and made 19-of-21 free throws in a 89-64 thrashing of the Scarabs (24-4), who were making their first state tournament appearance since 1972.
Kipper Nichols, a 6-7 junior forward for the Eagles, netted 25 points, grabbed five boards and a pair of blocks in the victory, while 6-3 senior Will Meyer and 6-9 sophomore Derek Funderburk added 14 and 12 tallies, respectively, off the bench.
“I have guys that can play,” explained 18th-year Eagles mentor Eric Flannery. “Talent is the reason we won today. I’m not going to call us great or say how good we are right now. We can play slow, fast, trap, man and we can go with a different lineup.”
The Eagles, who eye their first state title since 1998, blitzed East Tech right out of the gate with a 19-0 run after trailing 6-4 early in the first quarter. Leading 28-12 after a quarter, Flannery’s squad did not let up, shooting 16-of-24 in the first half to take a 43-23 lead into the halftime break.
Doubling the Scarabs’ problem was an ice-cold shooting effort from the field, as East Tech made just 6-of-24 shots and committed 11 turnovers.
Noted Scarab coach Brett Moore: “We lost to a great team that played great today.”
Leading scorer Kyauta Taylor, who averaged over 25 points per contest entering the game, was injured on a layup midway through the second quarter and did not return.
“It hurt us,” lamented Moore on losing his star guard. “That hurt our momentum because we rely on KT to score. With him out, that changed the roles of our other players.”
Junior guard Anthony Carmon led the scoring charge for the Scarabs with 16 points, while Johnell Free and Markell Johnson had 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Lakewood St. Edward advances to the Division I state title game against either Upper Arlington (26-1) or Trotwood-Madison (25-2) at 8:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center.