Wednesday, November 29, 2023

VASJ rolls into D3 state title game with 62-34 demolition of Eastmoore Academy

Unfinished business.

That was the overwhelming theme after Villa Angela-St. Joseph overwhelmed Columbus Eastmoor Academy, 62-34, in a Division III state semifinal on March 26.

VASJ (22-4) is in the state championship game for a third straight season and for the 11th time in program history, but the Vikings are far from satisfied.

And considering the state title game Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus is a rematch against Lima Central Catholic, who defeated VASJ in last year’s final, motivation is not a problem for the Vikings – and neither was the semi matchup against the Warriors.

McDonald’s All-American and Kansas recruit Carlton Bragg was dominant with 22 points and eight rebounds in just over three quarters of play. Northwestern signee Dererk Pardon added 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks for VASJ, who outscored Eastmoor, 55-27, after a tie game midway through the first quarter.

“Our strategy was shock and awe, to really press up on them defensively and attack them offensively,” VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak said. “I think the schedule we played and being here before really helped. But, congratulations to Eastmoor on a great year. It isn’t easy to get here.”

Bragg felt at ease on the home floor of Ohio State University in his fifth game at the Schottenstein Center in three seasons. The 6-foot-10 senior at one point had scored 20 points while Eastmoor (17-12) had 19 in the third quarter.

“I feel like this a second home for me. Three years in a row down here, I feel comfortable,” Bragg said.

“It feels good now (to be in the finals), but I don’t want to take it in too much. We have unfinished business.”

VASJ had a 46-16 advantage in the paint against Eastmoor and won the second and third quarters by a combined score of 35-10.

Lima Central Catholic knocked off Dayton Chaminade-Julienne, 55-50, in the second D-III state semi on March 26. In 2014, the Thunderbirds nipped the Vikings in the state championship game, 64-62.

Revenge is on the minds of VASJ, but more importantly, Saturday gives the Vikings’ seniors two state titles in three years and a sixth overall for the program – and the potential for an Ohio first of one championship in each of the state’s four divisions.

If VASJ brings the state title back to East 185th and Lakeshore, Kwasniak believes is will be because of the defensive effort of his team despite all the impressive offensive numbers. The Vikings are 55-0 over the last three seasons when they hold the opposition under 60 points.

“We have been unbelievable on defense lately,” Kwasniak said. “We are averaging somewhere around 82 points per game. We are one of the most efficient offensive teams in school history. We are going to set some records, but when we defend like that, we are really tough to beat.”

Senior guard Brian Parker (Marist recruit) scored nine points and Simon Texidor added eight for VASJ.

Kwasniak is at 99 career wins at his alma mater and will go for the century mark milestone as his team goes for a state championship on Saturday afternoon.

“Our guys have goals, and as (senior point guard) Mo Johnson has said, we don’t want to lose our last game,” Kwasniak said. “So that has kind of been our message.”


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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