CANTON: St. Vincent-St. Mary senior Nick Wells enters every basketball game with the objective to win, and to reach double figures in points and rebounds.
Wells accomplished both goals Saturday when St. V-M defeated Warrensville Heights 57-48 in a Division II boys basketball regional final before a crowd of 1,402 at Canton Memorial Civic Center.
Wells, a 6-foot-6 forward, scored 21 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, blocked three shots and had an assist and a steal.
“This is my senior year,” Wells said. “We were down at halftime [27-24]. All the hard work put into the preseason, I didn’t want it to go to waste. I just went hard out there.
“When I come to a game, I want to get a double-double every time. They didn’t box out well, so I was just going to get the ball. If it is off the rim, it is mine.”
The Irish (19-9) eliminated the Tigers (17-11) to advance to a Division II state semifinal game against Vincent Warren at 5:15 p.m. Thursday in Columbus.
The Irish led 16-10 after one quarter, but the Tigers rallied to take a 27-24 halftime lead. The Tigers went on an 11-0 run in the final 1:54 of the second quarter. Junior Charles Franklin, a 6-4 forward, started the spurt with two free throws and then 6-1 senior guard Montell Goodwin scored nine consecutive points with a jumper, layup, 3-pointer and floater.
St. V-M regrouped and opened the third quarter on a 9-0 run to lead 33-27 at 2:17.
“[Goodwin] on their team is a heck of a player,” Wells said. “Once he got hot, we went to a 2-3 zone and we ended up shutting them down. We regrouped ourselves. Basketball is a game of runs.”
The Irish led 38-32 after three quarters and never relinquished the advantage.
Goodwin led all scorers with 24 points and also had five steals. Franklin finished with eight points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Jahmere Howze, a 6-6 forward, had seven points and eight rebounds.
Irish coach Dru Joyce II made the decision to switch to a zone to slow down the Tigers, and it paid off.
“Every now and then, you have to pull something out of your hat,” Joyce said. “They were really getting to the rim in the first half. I was really upset with our guys because we got caught up in their tempo. I tried to tell them all week that when you play against a team that rips and runs and goes fast, it is easy to get caught up in that. A lot of times, those teams that play like that are good at it, so you don’t necessarily want to get caught into that kind of game.”
Irish 6-7 freshman guard VJ King contributed 11 points, four rebounds and two blocks.
“This is a great feeling right now,” King said. “I have never been in this situation before, but still our job is not done yet. We wanted these nets and we want the nets from the state championship. We just have to keep working.”
Irish 6-6 junior guard Jalen Hudson added seven points, three rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
“We are definitely excited, but these are not the nets that we want most,” Hudson said. “We are going to keep playing hard and playing as a team to get the job done.”
Wells, a Coventry resident and Lake Erie College recruit, scored 15 points in the second half. Wells missed last year’s regional final against Mentor Lake Catholic with a foot injury that occurred in a regional semifinal game versus East.
“He is a warrior,” Joyce said. “Nick is a kid that I met in seventh grade. From the first day, he said he wanted to come [to St. V-M]. He did whatever he had to do to get to [St. V-M] and you just love having those types of kids in your program.”
Irish juniors Jarel Woolridge and Travonte Junius and seniors Jordan Hargrove and Fransohn Bickley combined to score 18 points.
“This is an unbelievable feeling,” Woolridge said. “I went to state my freshman year, but I just dressed. This right here is so special. I am playing big minutes now.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.