St. V-M 58, Tuslaw 35
CANTON: The St. Vincent-St. Mary boys basketball team has advanced to a district championship game for the 15th consecutive year.
The Irish had to overcome miserable 3-point shooting and a gritty effort by Tuslaw to pull away in the fourth quarter for a 58-35 Division II district semifinal win Wednesday at the Canton Fieldhouse. The Irish will play Alliance for the district title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We needed a game where we were behind and had to come back,” St. V-M coach Dru Joyce said. “We didn’t shoot it well, so we did the right thing and got the ball inside to Nick Wells.”
Wells, a rugged 6-foot-6 senior post, pounded the interior of the Mustangs’ zone defense for 20 points and 6-foot-6 junior guard Jalen Hudson added 14 points as the Irish scratched to a 32-26 lead with less than a minute to play in the third quarter and then blew it open.
“We played the worst we could have in the first half and we were winning,” said Wells with a bloody lower lip. “We can’t play like that anymore.”
Joyce credited Tuslaw, which led 9-5 through one quarter, for its patience and ability to control the tempo.
“I felt like our guys underestimated their ability to handle the ball,” he said. “At the end of the day, great teams recognize what you can do to get a win. At this stage, a 23-point win is big.”
The Irish (16-9) led 25-21 at halftime and took a 38-26 lead into the fourth quarter, outscoring Tuslaw 20-9 to the final horn.
“We hung with them for about as long as we could,” Tuslaw coach Kevin Lower said. “We had a game plan and the kids executed it about as close to perfection as we could for 2½ quarters. We knew they were going to make a run. We just couldn’t counter.”
The tipping point came with 52.9 seconds left in the third quarter. St. V-M had missed its first 11 3-point attempts, but Hudson found the range from the right wing and was fouled on the shot. He completed the four-point play, and St. V-M led 36-26.
St. V-M senior guard Fransohn Bickley had five points and four steals, and junior guard Jarel Woolridge contributed four points, four assists and three steals.
Senior post K.C. Meyer paced Tuslaw (15-10) with 13 points.
Alliance 57, Marlington 47
Alliance (18-7) used a big fourth quarter Wednesday to defeat rival Marlington (18-7) after the two teams were tied at 35-35 through three quarters in the other district semifinal.
Juniors Parrish Martin and J.J. Kukura each had 11 points in the fourth quarter as the Aviators scored the first six points of the quarter and then used a 9-0 run to put the game away.
“We were very good in the fourth quarter,” Alliance coach Larry Kukura said. “I told our team at halftime and before the game that J.J. and Parrish were not going to win the game alone. Two guys weren’t going to beat Marlington. I thought our supporting cast was outstanding.”
Kukura tallied a game-high 27 points, including 13-of-13 from the foul line, and topped 1,000 career points. Martin had one point at halftime and finished with 16.
Alliance lost the Canton Division II district title game to St. V-M a year ago.
Marlington, which topped Alliance twice during the regular season, received 16 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks from 6-foot-5 senior Lucas Strouble, who is committed to Walsh University.