COLUMBUS: St. Vincent-St. Mary senior Nick Wells and his Fighting Irish teammates are one win away from cutting down the nets they really want, the nets from Columbus.
Wells, freshman VJ King and junior Jalen Hudson each scored in double figures Thursday to guide St. V-M to a 70-51 victory over Vincent Warren in a Division II state semifinal boys basketball game before a crowd of 10,561 at Value City Arena in Schottenstein Center.
Wells, a 6-foot-6 forward, scored 18 points and had seven rebounds and two assists. He made 7-of-8 field-goal attempts and 4-of-4 free-throw attempts.
St. V-M (20-9) will play Columbus Bishop Watterson (27-1) in the Division II state final at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Watterson beat Kettering Archbishop Alter 53-42 on Thursday. Vincent Warren ends its season at 26-2.
King, a 6-7 guard, scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and had one assist.
Hudson, a 6-6 guard, added 12 points, three rebounds and two assists.
The Irish limited Warriors leading scorer Evan French well below his 19.3 points per game scoring average. French, a 6-4 junior guard, scored five points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field before fouling out.
It didn’t take long for St. V-M to impose its will on Vincent Warren.
St. V-M led 19-17 after one quarter with Wells scoring 10 points. The Irish stretched the advantage to 39-27 at halftime with Hudson scoring six points.
The Irish pushed their edge to 57-39 after three quarters and then closed the Warriors out in the fourth quarter.
Senior guards Jordan Hargrove and Fransohn Bickley provided a spark at the guard position for the Irish along with junior Jarel Woolridge. Hargrove had eight points, three rebounds and three assists. Bickley totaled five points and four rebounds. Woolridge had three points and three assists.
St. V-M senior Joey Weber and juniors Newman Williams, Dante Booker and Travonte Junius were active in the post, combining to score 10 points and grab five rebounds.
Reece Patton and Michael Hall reached double figures for Vincent Warren. Patton, a 6-3 junior, scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds. Hall, a 6-5 sophomore, added 15 points and five rebounds.
Joyce applauded his team’s patience in the second half on offense and grit on defense.
St. V-M made 25-of-42 field-goal attempts and held a 32-22 rebounding advantage over Vincent Warren, which made 18-of-45 field-goal attempts.
St. V-M won state titles in 1984, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2009 and 2011. St. Mary won a state title in 1929.
Quotes following the game
St. V-M senior Nick Wells
“I am just focused on the next game. We have got practice tomorrow. We will go over the game plan. It is not going to be like that. It is not going to be a blowout. It is going to be a lot tougher, so we will have to focus.”
St. V-M freshman VJ King
“We played well today. I thought we really executed well, but like Nick said, our job is to finish. We can still celebrate, but we want to win this game Saturday. We have to stay focused and keep working.”
St. V-M coach Dru Joyce II
“We executed our game plan pretty good,” St. V-M coach Dru Joyce II said. “We always talk about getting the ball to the rim, and I thought early in the game we did that. In doing that, we got French into a little bit of foul trouble.”
“I thought we defended well. You are not going to keep a great shooter like French from scoring. He was going to get some, but our desire and our goal was to limit his scoring and to make all of them hard. If he got one, it would be one that he earned.”
Vincent Warren coach Blane Maddox
“They are long and good. They are fast and they can shoot. ... They are a strong team, and I wish them nothing but the best.”
“They are well coached and disciplined to go along with their athleticism.”
“I am so proud of my team for getting here. This is the first time in our school’s history.”