VASJ

6-8 sophomore Alonzo Gaffney (0) of Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph slams home a put-back dunk over St. Bernard Roger Bacon defender Alec Pfriem in Saturday's Division III state championship game at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus. VASJ won its seventh state title, 54-52.

COLUMBUS -- A pair of Cuyahoga County squads brought home gold hardware to their respective schools as Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph and Cleveland Heights Lutheran East recorded state championship triumphs in Division III and IV, respectively, at the Jerome Schottenstein Center in Columbus on Saturday.

In the Division III contest, the Vikings of Villa Angela-St. Joseph tied an OHSAA mark with the program's seventh state championship and third in the last five seasons, defeating St. Bernard Roger Bacon 54-52. 

The win capped off a 23-6 season for the Vikings, which had reached the state tournament level five consecutive seasons. The championship also marked an individual record for seventh-year mentor Babe Kwasniak, who won his third state championship as head coach. Kwasniak also won two title as a player when VASJ defeated Wauseon for the Division II state title in 1994 and 95. 

The third title for Kwasniak passes his father Tedd, now a VASJ assistant, who guided the team to titles in 1994 and 1995 after serving as an assistant to Mike Moran in title seasons in 1991 and 1992.

VASJ 5-9 senior point guard Jerry Higgins led the way with 16 points and seven rebounds in the win for the Vikings while 6-8 sophomore Alonzo Gaffney had 12 points and 10 boards. Will Butler added 10 markers.

Roger Bacon (25-5), winners over Archbold in the D-III state semifinals on Friday, came up short of the program's first title since an upset of Lebron James-led Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 15 years ago. 

Seniors Justin and James Johnson (unrelated) both hit double digits in their final games for the Spartans, netting 14 and 13 points, respectively. 6-4 sophomore Nick Pfriem put together a valiant effort in defeat with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

James Johnson hit a pair of 3-pointers to try and keep the Spartans' hopes alive while fouling to stop the clock but the margin was too much to make up as Johnson's final trey came with just 2 ticks remaining.

Meanwhile, in a game featuring 42 turnovers, 34 percent shooting and various scoring droughts, Cleveland Heights Lutheran East held off a fourth-quarter charge from Columbus Wellington School for the program's second state championship with a 43-38 win in the Division IV state championship.

The Falcons of Lutheran East (20-9) were battle-tested by a regular season slate that featured state qualifiers Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph and Lakewood St. Edward along with 2016 D-IV state champion Willoughby Cornerstone Christian and Garfield Heights. Lutheran East fell behind early 15-4 in the first period and trailed by nine after one period before tightening up defensively and allowing just nine points from Wellington in the second and third quarters combined. 

6-3 junior Jordan Burge was the lone Falcon in double figures with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists before fouling out in the win. The Lutheran East full-court pressure induced 26 turnovers from Wellington (22-8), while the Jaguars shot just 1-of-11 from outside the arc.

Wellington, making its first appearance in the state championship game after semifinal losses in 2016 and 2003, out-rebounded the Falcons 39-29 in the loss. After trailing by as much as nine with 2:21 in regulation, the Jaguars put together a furious rally, trimming the Lutheran East lead to four before coming up short.

6-9 senior post Dustin Harder highlighted the effort for the Jaguars, tallying a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds in his final career game. 

Load comments