CANTON: The opportunity to cut down the nets presented itself Saturday and St. Vincent-St. Mary junior Jalen Hudson and freshman VJ King rushed to be the first in line.
Hudson and King had competition from their teammates in getting to the ladder after St. V-M defeated Alliance 73-56 in a Division II district final at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.
Hudson scored 22 points and King scored 16 points to lead the Fighting Irish (17-9) over the Aviators (18-8).
“We won this game on defense,” said King, who also had five rebounds and four assists. “It is a good win, but our job is to finish. We can celebrate now, but we have to get back at it the next day. We still have work to do.”
St. V-M will play CVCA in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Thursday at the Canton Memorial Civic Center.
“Everybody contributed to this win,” Hudson said. “We played all 15 guys. We played as a team and you can see it is starting to show.”
Junior JJ Kukura, a 6-foot-2 forward and the son of Alliance coach Larry Kukura, paced the Aviators with 29 points and eight rebounds. He scored 21 of his points in the second half.
St. V-M never trailed. The Irish led 14-11 after one quarter, 29-19 at halftime and 47-29 after three quarters.
“It is hard to pull away when a team is packing into a zone,” St. V-M coach Dru Joyce II said. “They wanted to keep the tempo slow. They are a good team with some very good players. They are a little undersized, but they played the zone well and have played it well all season long.”
Hudson and King, who are 6-6 and 6-7, respectively, gave Alliance trouble with their size and athleticism.
They weren’t the only Irish players that disrupted the Aviators’ offense. Senior guard Fransohn Bickley had three steals and scored seven points. Senior guard Jordan Hargrove scored nine points, and 6-6 senior forward Nick Wells just missed oon a double-double with eight points and 12 rebounds.
“Over time, we just kept telling our guys to continue to force it inside to get an inside touch,” Joyce said. “Then we can throw it out for the 3… We are also blessed. I can go 10, 11, 12 deep. When we subbed, the speed goes up and the intensity goes up.
“Sometimes it is a hard adjustment for teams. I am really thankful for the football players — Dante [Booker], Newman [Williams], Joey [Weber], Fresh [Bickley], Jordan [Hargrove] and Travonte [Junius]. They play great defense and they give us a lot of toughness.”
Wells and Junius both had three assists. Hudson, Bickley and junior Jarel Woolridge all had two assists
Junior guard Parrish Martin scored 13 points for Alliance.
Hudson and King both said that the Irish have their sights set on regional and state titles.
“We need to just stay in our system and not get rattled,” King said.
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.