Thursday, December 7, 2023

VASJ overpowers MLK in sectional title victory

The eight Villa Angela-St. Joseph senior captains played their last game at Viking Village in a sectional championship game against Cleveland MLK on March 6.

It went very much the same way most of their experiences on the tile floor at East 185th and Lakeshore went over the past four years – dominant and successful.

VASJ scored the first 23 points of the game en route to a 95-50 destruction of the Crusaders. The Vikings advanced to the Division III Garfield Heights District semifinals on March 9 against Elyria Catholic.

VASJ (17-4) – sparked by an array of highlight dunks and full-court defensive plays – roared out to a 23-0 lead on MLK before the Crusaders finally hit the scoreboard with a 3-pointer.

The Vikings were led by Jeff Grudzinski, who scored a career-high 18 points off the bench, and Kansas recruit Carlton Bragg, who equaled Grudzinski with 18.

Northwestern recruit Dererk Pardon added 15 points for VASJ.

“It was important to get a lot of guys on the floor and some guys some meaningful minutes who don’t always get enough,” VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak said.

“I was happy for Jeff and Tre’Von (Williams) to see them play a lot of time – sometimes they don’t get that opportunity – in their final game at home. Overall, I am just so proud of all of our guys, especially this special senior class and just glad to get the win and move on to the next step. These guys have goals and we are still on track for the big one. We know nothing will come easy moving forward.”

VASJ nearly missed scoring 100 points for the fifth time this season.

The Vikings are four wins away from returning to Columbus for the state final four and six wins from bringing home a sixth state championship in boys basketball to Viking Village.

Following the game, the VASJ seniors were honored with a video in front of their teammates, faculty, select alumni and family designed by Coach Kwasniak’s wife, Laura.


Steve Hare
Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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