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Boys Basketball State Tournament

Villa Angela-St. Joseph Adds Seventh State Championship to Legacy

*Matt Medley and Don DiFrancesco co-scribed this article*

Cleveland’s Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School survived an epic battle with Cincinnati-area power Roger Bacon and captured the school’s seventh OHSAA championship on Saturday with a 54-52 victory.

VASJ (23-6) had their largest lead of the game, 53-43, when junior point guard Jerry Higgins made two free throws with 34 seconds remaining to play.

Then the Vikings had to hold on as the Bacon Spartans converted three straight 3-pointers: one by Craig McGee, Jr., and two by James Johnson.  VASJ’s Higgins split a pair of free throws between the two Johnson 3-pointers to account for the final point differential of two. The Spartans ended their season at 25-5.

In addition to scoring, team statistical totals were very close as well: steals even at five, VASJ ahead in assists 8-7, Bacon leading in rebounds 31-29. The Vikings shot a bit better (47% to 44%), but the Spartans led in second-chance points 17-10.

What may have been the turning point occurred with 1:09 left in the game. Roger Bacon’s Justin Johnson, who led the Spartans in scoring with 14 points, fouled out on a player control foul near the baseline. At the time the VASJ lead was only 45-43, but the Vikings followed with an 8-point run over the next 0:35 to get to their largest lead of the night.

Other double figure scorers for Roger Bacon included James Johnson with 13 and sophomore Alec Pfriem with 12. Pfriem also led the Spartans in rebounding with 11, seven of which were on the offensive end.

Jerry Higgins was once again the leading scorer for VASJ with 16. Sophomore Alonzo Gaffney (12 points & 10 rebounds) and senior super-sub Will Butler (10 points) were also prominent for the Vikings. Senior guard Noah Newlon dropped in two long 3-point bombs early in the fourth quarter to give VASJ a big lift on their way to title number seven. With this title, VASJ is now tied for the most state championships in Ohio Boys Basketball history, along with Middletown and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.

See head coach Babe Kwasniak’s press conference along with Jerry Higgens, Alonzo Gaffney, and the special group of seniors who were part of VASJ’s fifth-straight trip to the State Championship.

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