A day full of emotions ended in pain for the Northland High School boys basketball team March 26 at Ohio State.
Looking for their second Division I state championship in three seasons, the Vikings never seemed to have an answer for Cincinnati La Salle's slow-moving, back-door-cutting offense and were held to a season-low point total on the way to a 59-40 loss.
"They have five guys that can pass, stretch and dribble," said Northland coach Satch Sullinger, whose team finished with a 26-2 record. "They looked extremely sharp, and after a while we kind of lost our confidence."
It was the final game for Sullinger, who is retiring at season's end, as well as the last prep game for a group of seniors led by Ohio's Mr. Basketball, Trey Burke. The day began with the team attending the funeral of junior post player Jalen Robinson's brother, Tyree Robinson, who died March 19.
Burke had his second consecutive rough shooting night, as he finished just 4-for-14 from the floor with 10 points.
Northland built a 12-4 lead with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the opening quarter, but the Lancers answered with a 10-0 run.
During the second quarter, La Salle led by as much as seven before taking a 28-22 lead into halftime.
The Lancers neutralized Northland's height advantage throughout the third quarter by creating easy baskets for Brandon Neel. The 6-foot-3 senior forward scored nine points during the period on the way to finishing with 22 points on 10 of 15 shooting.
In the fourth quarter, Northland got within 45-35 with 5:30 remaining, but technical fouls on Jordan Potts and Devon Scott helped La Salle pull away.
The Lancers, who also finished with a 26-2 record, led by as much as 22 points.
Ryan Fleming added 17 points for La Salle. Potts and Robinson both scored six points for Northland, which was outrebounded 28-20.
"Northland's such a good team, and we just prided ourselves on being tougher than the other guys," said La Salle coach Dan Fleming, who was back on the sidelines for the state tournament after suffering a heart attack 20 days ago. "After the first four minutes, we finished some easy shots, hit a couple 3s and made a decent amount of free throws."