COLUMBUS - A state tournament veteran met a tournament newcomer in the first session of Friday's state semifinal quadrupleheader and, as it most often does, the veterans won out.
In their fifth straight state appearance, Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph thoroughly overwhelmed Proctorville Fairland 73-50 in a Division III state semifinal.
Fairland (25-2), making its second-ever state tournament trip and first since 1961, was unable to overcome the firepower brought by a battle-tested roster from VASJ (22-6). Four Vikings reached double figures, led by athletic 6-8 sophomore Alonzo Gaffney's 17 points and nine rebounds.
"Warming up before the game, I was hitting every shot," admitted Gaffney.
5-8 senior point guard Jerry Higgins chipped in 17 markers and three assists in the easy victory for VASJ, which will face either Archbold or St. Bernard Roger Bacon in the D-III state championship on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. The state title game berth marks the fourth straight time the Vikings have played for a state crown.
"No matter what we do (Saturday), these guys have done something that will last for the rest of their lives," said VASJ mentor Babe Kwasniak, who is 136-41 in seven years as the program's skipper.
Fairland battled gamely in the first half, trading buckets until a late first-quarter run put VASJ up 18-10 at the end of one quarter. From then on, it was all Vikings with a 21-9 second-stanza blitz. VASJ shot a scorching 61 percent from the field (28-of-46) while a high-scoring Dragon roster was held to 50 points on 39 percent shooting (22-of-56).
William Butler of Villa Angela-St. Joseph hit three treys and ignited the Viking run with 16 points while senior Daniel McGarry had 11 points and five boards.
Keedrick Cunningham poured in 17 points in defeat for Proctorville Fairland, which started five juniors and does not have a senior on the roster. Luke Thomas and Kollin Van Horn added 11 and 10 points, respectively.