St. John’s Jesuit’s vaunted 1-2 scoring punch delivered the knockout Wednesday night, as the fifth-ranked Titans eliminated rival Central Catholic with a 64-32 victory in the Division I boys basketball semifinals at Savage Arena.
Seniors Vincent Williams and Houston King led St. John’s (21-3) with 23 and 22 points, respectively, as the Titans won their ninth straight game, and advanced to Saturday’s 2 p.m. district final here.
St. John’s will face Anthony Wayne (17-7), which topped Lima Senior, 56-51, in Wednesday’s second semifinal here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Division I district semifinals at Savage Arena
“The mantra is ‘Get the ball to Vince, and let something happen,” St. John’s coach Ed Heintschel said. “He’s extremely trustworthy with the ball, and he’s unselfish almost to a fault sometimes.
“So, that’s a tremendous luxury, and I thought Houston King shot like a D-I [college] guard tonight. He was taking good step-up shots and just knocking them down.”
VIDEO: St. John’s-Central Catholic
The Titans shot 52 percent from the field in the game, including a sizzling 10-of-19 (53 percent) from 3-point range.
Ahead 33-21 at halftime, St. John’s blew the game open with a 14-2 run over the first 3:48 of the third quarter, a stretch that saw the Titans hit four start 3-pointers to open the period.
“We played pretty good defense the whole way,” Heintschel said. “[Cameron] Awls hurt us a little bit in the first half, and he’s a good ballplayer. Other than that, we defended pretty well, and we executed some stuff offensively.
“We hit shots in the second half, and when you hit shots the game’s just easier to play.”
Sophomore Jonzell Norrils led Central with 11 points, and classmate Awls added nine points for the Irish (9-15).
“St. John’s hit everything,” Central coach T.J. Hunt said. “They came out hard and knocked down every shot. And, offensively, we didn’t execute.
“When you get to this point, and you’ve played someone three times, everyone knows what everybody else does, and it comes down to who’s going to be the mentally tougher team and execute. St. John’s executed very well tonight, and we struggled.”
The Irish tried to keep pace with St. John’s firepower early on, and were still within 23-18 after Awls hit a 3-pointer midway in the second quarter.
But Central gradually came unraveled as the more efficient Titans increasing began to click as the Irish got colder. Central was just 3-for-25 from the field after halftime, including a 1-for-16 effort in the final period.
In the second semifinal, Anthony Wayne shook off a slow start, found its offensive rhythm late in the first quarter, pulled ahead before halftime, and never trailed again in holding off Lima Senior (12-12).
Max Bradfield, who hit eight of 10 free throws in the Generals’ 65-52 sectional final win over Findlay last week, was 10-for-10 at the line this time, all in the fourth quarter.
That accuracy helped ice things for AW, which was 15-for-18 on free throws in the game.
“If you would’ve told us at the beginning of the season that we were going to make it to the district finals, everybody would’ve probably laughed at us,” Generals coach Josh Arthur said. “But it’s the heart and soul that we have in that locker room.
“They believed in themselves, even when some people told them maybe they couldn’t do it. They worked really hard and Lima Senior’s a great team, but I think we handled the pressure pretty well.”
VIDEO: Anthony Wayne-Lima Senior
Bradfield led the balanced Generals coring with 13 points, and four of his teammates had nine each – starters Andrew Murphy, Max Denman, Josh Boyer, and 6-9 sub Alex Ruhe.
“It helps at the end that we have good press-breakers, and we have good kids who work really hard,” Arthur said. “They focus at repetitions in practice, and we shoot 70-80 free throws every single day. It’s paid off for us the last couple games.”
The Spartans’ Bryan Miller led all scorers with 17 points, and Jatsiel Colon added 13 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
Lima Senior jumped out to a 7-2 lead before Anthony Wayne answered with a 9-4 run to tie the game on two Boyer free throws with 1:03 left in the first quarter.
Down 15-13 entering the second quarter, AW put together an 11-2 surge to close the half with a 27-22 edge.
The Generals led 39-35 after three periods, and the closest Lima Senior got from there was 51-49, when Colon hit one of two free throws with 37.5 seconds remaining.
Bradfield followed by hitting both shots in back-to-back double-bonus opportunities to held Anthony Wayne secure its district final berth against top-seeded St. John’s.
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