The Watterson High School boys basketball team defeated Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 56-51 in a Division II state semifinal March 20 at Ohio State to advance to the state final for the second time in program history.
The Eagles, who improved to 26-2 overall, will attempt to defend their state title when they face Norwalk in the final 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 22, at Ohio State.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way our team executed our game plan,” said Watterson coach Vince Lombardo, whose team beat St. Vincent-St. Mary 55-52 in last year’s state final. “To beat a team as talented as Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary twice in the last few years on a big stage like this is very special.”
Watterson turned the ball over on their first three possessions and fell behind 9-0 in the first quarter before rallying to take a 30-21 halftime lead after Joe DiOrio made two 3-pointers and scored all 10 of his points in the second quarter.
“As hard as it is to say, the better team won,” said St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce, whose team finished 19-10. “DiOrio stepped up in a big way that we didn’t expect from him. We thought he may shoot some threes, but we hoped he wouldn’t be as successful as he was.”
Matt Hughes scored Watterson’s first seven points of the second half to put the Eagles ahead 37-23 with 3 minutes, 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
St. Vincent-St. Mary tied the scored at 42 with 5:56 left in the fourth quarter, before Matt Lehmann scored 13 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to help the Eagles ice the victory. Lehmann made four of his six field goal attempts and went 9-for-10 from the foul line, including going 8-for-8 in the fourth quarter.
“I tried my best to block out the crowd (of 9,615 fans) and just make my free throws,” Lehmann said.
Hughes finished with 11 points, and Cody Calhoun and Andy Grieser each scored eight points apiece to pace Watterson’s offense.
Jalen Hudson scored 18 points and Josh Williams had 12 points to lead St. Vincent-St. Mary.