Coach Jacob Daniel wanted his St. Charles Preparatory School basketball team to control the pace of play during its Division I regional semifinal against Pickerington Central.

However, the second-ranked Tigers scored 20 points in the first quarter and 39 in the first half in a 75-53 victory March 15 at Ohio Dominican.

The Cardinals finished 24-3 overall, winning their first Division I district title and first district championship since 1995 when they played in Division II.

"We wanted to keep them away from having 20-point quarters and they had quarters of 20 and 19 right off the bat," Daniel said. "It's not the start we would have wanted.

"They had the body size, the strength and the length, and they had a couple of great players who laid down the law."

Sterling Manley, a 6-foot-11 North Carolina recruit, led Central with 25 points and Jeremiah Francis added 23.

"Jeremiah has had some great games, and that was one of them," Central coach Eric Krueger said. "It was really the efficiency of how he played. He was setting guys up and making some great passes in addition to scoring. We were pushing the tempo. We weren't slowing down. We had to speed it up."

Senior forward Nick Muszynski had 15 points, seven rebounds and three blocks to lead the Cardinals. Senior point guard Braden Budd had 12 points and junior guard George Javitch added 11 with three 3-pointers.

Senior forward Tavon Brown had eight points and seven rebounds.

"We knew they had a lot of talent and we had to get some stops," Budd said. "They dominated the first and second quarters."

Central went on to win the regional title, beating Pickerington North 75-58 on March 18.

The eighth-seeded Cardinals defeated 14th-seeded Hilliard Davidson 37-19 in a district final March 11 at Ohio Dominican for their 11th consecutive victory. They defeated 10th-seeded Reynoldsburg 45-41 in a district semifinal March 8 at Worthington Christian Middle School after opening the postseason with home wins over 30th-seeded Briggs (56-44 on Feb. 25) and 29th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley (69-43 on Feb. 28).

The Cardinals won their third consecutive CCL championship, going 8-0 to finish ahead of DeSales (5-3), Hartley (4-4), Ready (3-5) and Watterson (0-8).

Muszynski, who will play at Belmont in Nashville, Tennessee, was second-team all-district and first-team all-league. He averaged team highs of 16.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks and shot 57 percent from the field. He also averaged 2.5 assists.

Brown, a 6-7 Hillsdale (Michigan) recruit, averaged 10.6 points. 6.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists, and Budd averaged 13.6 points, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals. Both were honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league.

Rounding out the five-player senior class were starting guard Jordan Burkey (2.6 points, 2.7 assists) and reserve guard Ben Burger.

"We had a great group of seniors, definitely the most talented group we have had," said Daniel, who completed his eighth season. "They were great team leaders not only on the court, but also in terms of team meals and get-togethers."

Javitch (7.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists) also started and was second-team all-league. Junior guard Bryce Todd was one of the first players off the bench.

Also expected back are juniors Machol Bol (guard), Matt Keyes (guard) and Nick Schuler (forward) and sophomores Charlie Hackett (guard) and Alec Lohiser (forward).

"Our five seniors played a ridiculous number of minutes," Daniel said. "We'll take the rest of March off and come back after spring break and get back to it."

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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