COLUMBUS - The spirited and somewhat surprising state basketball tournament ride of St. John's Jesuit - a trek that included consecutive wins over teams ranked sixth, fifth and second in Ohio - finally came to a halt last night.
Top-ranked, defending state champion Canton McKinley (24-2) proved equal to its hype by taking a 69-51 Division I state semifinal victory over the Titans before a crowd of 17,497 at Value City Arena.
Andrew Taylor, St. John's 6-foot-7 senior forward, completed his already impressive tourney resume with a superb 24-point, seven-rebound effort. But it was not enough to offset the powerful inside senior Bulldog tandem of 6-8 D-I player of the year Raymar Morgan and 6-6 Ricky Jackson.
In just 22 minutes, Morgan, slowed by early foul trouble, scored 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting. Jackson included a pair of timely 3-pointers in his 18 points.
McKinley will face Trotwood-Madison (22-5) in the D-I state final tonight at 8:30.
McKinley is trying to become the first back-to-back big-school champion since Cincinnati Elder won Class AAA titles in 1973 and '74.
"We did not want to show up and be contented with just coming down." veteran Titan coach Ed Heintschel said. "We wanted to win the game. I thought we showed the same kind of grit that we showed over the last few weeks.
"It just came down do them having more physical guys, and they just kind of wore us down. Certainly the effort was there on our guys' part."
Also pivotal for McKinley was the defensive play of Kyrk Freeman, who had five of the Bulldogs' 12 steals, and Todd Brown, who clamped down on Titan scoring leader Jonathan Dunn.
Dunn, a 6-3 second-team All-Ohioan who came in averaging 18.8 points per game, managed just three field-goal attempts in the game, hitting none.
His only two points came on a pair of free throws with 1:32 remaining.
"We did a good job of not giving him open looks," McKinley coach Dave Hoover said.
"We thought that Todd's size [6-5] might shut him down a little bit and keep him from getting some open looks. [Dunn] is a difficult player to defend because he can take the ball off the dribble and score, or he can shoot the 3.
"We did a nice job of not really giving him any real good looks, and we never let him get into any kind of rhythm."
The Titans (21-6) still managed to stay close to the heavily favored Bulldogs until late in the third quarter. When freshman backup guard Micahel Taylor hit two free throws with 2:34 left in the quarter, St. John's trailed 39-34.
But Andrew Taylor went to the bench with his fourth foul 43 seconds later, and McKinley launched a game-breaking 20-7 surge over the next five minutes.
After DeAndre Ware converted a three-point play to close the third quarter, the Titans trailed 46-37. Just 2:58 later, when Sedelle Broyles cruised in for a transition layup, McKinley was in command, 59-41.
The decisive stat, outside of Dunn's scoring void, was McKinley's 29-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Bulldogs forced 20 St. John's giveaways.
"We were OK for a good spell," Heintschel said of taking care of the ball. "Even into the second half it wasn't too bad. Then in the third quarter it just kind of turned on us.
"These guys bring it. I think the best team we [ever] played in Ohio was the [1998 state champion] Lakewood St. Ed's team of Logan and company, and this team's right there with them."
That St. Ed team included Steve Logan (Cincinnati), Sam Clancy (Southern Cal) and Steve Lepore (Northwestern and Wake Forest).
After falling behind 20-10 when Jackson capped an 11-1 Bulldog run with a 3-pointer
3:30 into the second quarter, St. John's made a surge.
Andrew Taylor drove the left baseline for bucket with 2:47 left in the half, added a free throw 25 seconds later, and teammate Mike Floyd's 3-pointer at the
2:12 mark closed an 11-3 Titan surge which got them within 23-21.
"Early on they got in some foul troubles with Morgan and Jackson," Taylor said.
"I was one-on-one down there, and they weren't really helping out [on defense] and coach just told me to turn and go hard to the basket.
"Our guards shoot so well that they can't really double down that much because, if I kick it out, they'll step out and hit it."
McKinley was 27 of 51 (53 percent) from the field, 12 of 16 at the line and outrebounded the Titans 27-22. St. John's was 16 of 37 (43 percent) from the field and 16 of 19 from the line.
Ware scored eight points and starting guards Floyd and Joe Jakubowski had five points apiece for the Titans, who were making their fifth appearance in the state semifinals.
The 1993, 1996 and 2004 St. John's teams finished as state runners-up.
Contact Steve Junga at:
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