03/15 - 7:00 PM Boys Basketball Final Villa Angela-St. Joseph 69 Youngstown Ursuline 60
CANTON, Ohio – The knotted white rope hung around the Villa Angela-St. Joseph players’ neck.
A prize for the player. A prize for the Vikings.
What was done by one was done by all – a miss, a make, a block, a jam.
That’s because this year, this win, this trip to state was different than last according to junior Carlton Bragg. This time, it was a team effort.
On Saturday at Canton Fieldhouse, Villa Angela-St. Joseph outhustled, outscored and out-strategized Youngstown Ursuline to win the Division III Regional Final, 69-60.
“This is fun,” junior Brian Parker said about the team’s return to state. ”This never gets boring.”
The game started off with a lot of emotion as Ursuline pushed the Vikings early. They scrambled out to a 9-4 lead thanks to back-to-back three pointers. It’s a lead that would quickly disappear. The contributions from Parker and Deandre Forte brought the Vikings back and the first quarter was finished off with a right hand jam from Bragg.
Parker finished the game with 15 points. Forte finished with four.
Then came big contributions from Dererk Pardon. Coming off two blocks in the first, Pardon drove to the basket so much he ended up at the line three straight possessions at the start of the second. His free throws, along with a 3-pointer from Simon Texidor helped the Vikings widen the halftime gap to 31-22.
Texidor finished the game with 15 points. Pardon would finish just shy of a triple double with eight points, 14 rebounds and nine blocks.
“There is no one leader,” Pardon said. “We’re all the leaders. … We all took the pressure off each other. It’s a great feeling knowing everybody’s in it for the team.”
Then came the quarter of Carlton Bragg. After Parker opened with a three-point play, Bragg went on a roll with two made free throws, slammed a dunk and then contributed two more buckets to give the Vikings a 14-3 run to open the third quarter. They ended it with 49-35 lead.
Bragg led the Vikings with 21 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, two assists and a steal.
“It feels good though because everybody committed to the game,” Bragg said. “The first time (to state) it wasn’t really our team and everybody didn’t contribute but as you see the second time everybody contributed and did their part.”
In the final quarter, no one player really stood out above the rest and at a few points, with emotions high, they stopped working as a team. It’s part of the reason Ursuline was able to make a late attempt at a rally, thanks to the speed and elusiveness of Irish junior Mark Hughes and sophomore Dave Collins.
The turning point of the quarter came with 3:08 remaining. Bragg slammed a two-hand jam, screaming with joy and drawing a foul. He completed the three-point play with a made free throw.
“It felt great,” he said with a smile. “I kind of let my emotions get the best of me though.”
One by one, the Vikings climbed the ladder to cut a piece of the net: Parker, Pardon, Tre’von Williams, Forte, Texidor, Bragg, coach Babe Kwasniak.
Until there was no rope touching rim left.
Another trip to Columbus. Another shot at state.
All because: “We left it all on the court,” Bragg said. “All for one.”