Upper Arlington advances to title game

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Upper Arlington's Kevin Vannatta, left, and Griffin Caldwell acknowledge the Golden Bears fans in the final seconds of UA's 74-49 win over Trotwood-Madison in a Division I state semifinal game March 21 at Ohio State.

Admittedly hard to please, Upper Arlington High School boys basketball coach Tim Casey cracked a wide smile after his team dissected Trotwood-Madison 74-49 in a Division I state semifinal March 21 at Ohio State.

Breaking the Rams’ press with barely a sweat, the Golden Bears quickly erased an early 12-6 deficit with an 18-0 run of their own, then led by as many as 28 points in the fourth quarter en route to their 26th consecutive victory and first state championship game berth since 1937.

Kevin Vannatta scored a game-high 25 points and had five rebounds, Logan Richter added 14 points and Danny Hummer had seven points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for UA (27-1), which will play Lakewood St. Edward (25-2) in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. March 22 at OSU.

“I felt like our preparation was spot-on,” Casey said. “We executed the game plan masterfully. It was a different environment than what we’re used to, and we showed poise and patience. That was key. We couldn’t run up and down with them. That was going to make it a long night.”

Dazhonetae Bennett had 23 points and six rebounds to pace Trotwood-Madison (25-3), which averaged 85 points in its first 27 games but never got into a comfort zone offensively. The Rams shot 18-of-48 (37.5 percent) and committed 15 turnovers.

Bennett scored six consecutive points to put Trotwood-Madison ahead 12-6 with 3 minutes, 55 seconds left in the first quarter. Then UA began to break the press with regularity, reeling off an 18-0 run in 4:14.

Vannatta had two layups and a 6-foot jumper in the run, which Hummer capped with a 3-pointer. Trotwood-Madison never got within 10 points after that.

“We didn’t think about that 18-0 run sealing anything,” Hummer said. “We just knew we had to keep after them the whole game.”

The Bears, who are in the state tournament for the first time since 1939, shot 25-of-39 (64.1 percent) from the floor and were 23-of-33 (69.7 percent) at the foul line.

“Upper Arlington is just really good,” Trotwood-Madison coach Rocky Rockhold said. “We left passing lanes open and let them get backdoor layups because we weren’t following our principles on defense. Credit to them for shooting so well, but they got some pretty good looks when we let down.”

Now, the Bears’ season will end one way or another against St. Edward, which routed Cleveland East Tech 89-64 in the first semifinal March 21.

“They’re just freaking talented,” Casey said. “They’re long and athletic. We have to play very well to even be in that game. But our guys believe.”