DeSales Roundup: Stallions boys basketball squad falls short in state final
As the DeSales boys basketball team prepared to play for its second state championship and first in 34 years, coach Pat Murphy and his players cited the program mantra of “JYD” – “junkyard dog mentality” – that they considered a common thread through not just each of their seven postseason games, but the past four seasons.
“It’s really something that started out in a scrimmage against Dublin Scioto four years ago. We were being a little bit soft and we just got them into the huddle and said ‘let’s play ‘JYD,’ let’s get tough,’ ” Murphy said. “I guess I watched a lot of big-time wrestling in the 80s and there was the Junkyard Dog. We all as coaches want to get tough, get loose balls. Every program preaches out and our guys have totally bought in. They love it. It’s become a badge of honor.”
Despite a 72-50 loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the Division II state final March 21 at the University of Dayton, seniors Austin Mann and Desmond Watson agreed that was the legacy their class would leave, even beyond leading the Stallions to their first state appearance since 2009 and fifth all-time.
“We’ve been preaching ‘JYD’ since our freshman year,” Mann said. “We live by that. It brought us a long way.”
The Stallions, who finished 19-8, established themselves inside and thrived in half-court sets early against SVSM. They scored 24 points in the paint in the first half and their other nine from the free-throw line in building a five-point lead, but struggled mightily against the Irish’s full-court pressure in the second half.
SVSM opened the third quarter with a 17-1 run, forcing six DeSales turnovers in the first 4 minutes, 43 seconds, and got 37 points from Ohio State recruit Malaki Branham – a childhood friend and former summer basketball teammate of Watson who moved to Akron before his freshman year.
Watson, a first-team all-CCL honoree and district Player of the Year, scored 23 to pace DeSales and finished his career with a program-record 1,722 points.
“It’s very special because this is what we’d been preaching since the first day of practice,” said Watson, a Davidson recruit. “I definitely wanted this personally, to be here at the state championship.”
The Stallions advanced with a 51-34 win over Dayton Chaminade Julienne in a semifinal March 21 at UD. Watson had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists and senior forward Obed Achirem added 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Riding a defense that allowed just 33.5 points on average through its first six postseason games before the final, DeSales made its first title game appearance since winning its only title in 1987. That was the last year before this that UD played host to state.
Achirem was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, along with junior forward Atticus Schuler.
Other players eligible to return include juniors Michael Sabatino (guard) and Cruz Sanchez (forward/center) and freshman Michael Walker (guard).
“It hurts right now, but they’ll get through it and we’ll get through it,” Murphy said. “They were part of something historic in this program. That tall silver (runner-up) trophy isn’t what we came here for, but it will feel better later. We couldn’t be prouder.”
Wrestler Shulaw caps
strong season at state
Wrestler Max Shulaw ended his freshman season with a fourth-place finish in the Division II state tournament March 13 and 14 at Sparta Highland, yet still took pride in his achievement despite falling short of a title.
Shulaw finished 27-4. He went 3-2 at state and was pinned by Wintersville Indian Creek’s Austin Starr in 3:34 in the third-place match, in which he trailed 2-0 most of the way.
“I tried to force a stand up, got my head to close to my knee and couldn’t get out,” Shulaw said. “It was definitely a goal to get to state and execute. I knew making state was my goal even though this wasn’t exactly how I wanted to end it. My aggression and pace (carried me during the season). I kept it on guys the whole time and used my strength and quickness.”
Shulaw pinned Athens’ Drake George in 1:38 in the first round and Poland Seminary’s Dolan Smith in 3:37 in the second round before losing to undefeated and eventual state champion Dylan Fishback 5-0 in a semifinal.
Shulaw, who hurt his left ankle before the district championship March 6 at Wilmington and had to default out of that match, pinned Mansfield Madison’s Trenton Osborne in 3:29 in a consolation semifinal.
“Overall, we had a great weekend. (Shulaw) wrestled tough. He’s young. It’ll take a bit to iron out the bad tendencies, but he has so much upside,” coach Collin Palmer said. “We’ve trained hard for a long time. This is his fifth or sixth year with me. We’re looking at state titles, national titles and full scholarships. That’s where we are with him.”
DeSales’ other state qualifier, sophomore Owen Eagan, went 0-2 at 120 and finished the season 21-8. He was pinned by Minerva’s Jacob Norris in 3:59 and lost to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s Anthony Perez 13-2 in a first-round consolation match.
The Stallions scored 18 points and tied Granville for 29th place behind champion St. Paris Graham (181.5) as 80 teams scored. Graham won its 20th consecutive title.
DeSales’ other two district qualifiers are eligible to return in freshmen Zack Lopez (126, 22-5) and Aidan Rush (132, 19-7), as is sophomore Rebekah Oladokun, who finished fourth at 137 in the girls state tournament Feb. 21 at Hilliard Davidson.
•Record: 19-8 overall
•CCL standings: St. Charles (6-2), DeSales (5-3), Hartley and Ready (4-4), Watterson (1-7)
•Seniors lost: Obed Achirem, Noah Garrick, Austin Mann, Tony Swartz and Desmond Watson
•Key returnees: Michael Sabatino, Cruz Sanchez and Atticus Schuler
•Postseason: Defeated Centennial 61-27; def. Columbus South 65-33; def. Jonathan Alder 42-38; def. Chillicothe Unioto 40-37; def. Byesville Meadowbrook 58-44; def. Dayton Chaminade Julienne 51-34; lost to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 72-50 in Division II state final
•CCL standings: Hartley (3-0), DeSales (2-1), Watterson (1-2), Ready (0-3)
•Senior lost: Romaiun Speed
•Key returnees: Owen Eagan, Zack Lopez, Rebekah Oladokun, Aidan Rush and Max Shulaw
•Postseason: Eighth (107.5) at sectional behind champion Jonathan Alder (196), ninth (60) at district behind champion St. Paris Graham (293), tied for 29th (18) at state behind champion Graham (181.5)