AKRON, Ohio -- The defending Division I state champion sure looked like one on Wednesday, as St. Edward boys basketball grabbed a 68-60 win over undefeated Lorain in a regional semifinal.
The Eagles (20-5) got a huge night from Kipper Nichols, who finished with a game-high 31 points against Lorain (25-1) in the win at James A. Rhodes Arena on the campus of the University of Akron.
"I was proud of our guys for handling the environment and handling the crowd," said St. Edward coach Eric Flannery. "We kept out composure for the most part tonight, and we just continued to battle through."
St. Edward will now face the winner of Thursday's semifinal between Lima Senior and Toledo St. John's Jesuit on Saturday at the University of Toledo. A win would put St. Edward in the state semifinals for the second season in a row.
It was Nichols who got things going early on for the Eagles. He had 18 points at the half, as St. Edward jumped out to a 34-23 lead over the Titans.
In the loss, senior Devon Andrews finished with a team-high 24 points.
What it means
Now three wins away from a Division I state title, St. Edward is resembling the team it was last year. The Eagles play together, have a dominant frontcourt and have smart guards. Against an undefeated team, the game never felt like it was in doubt.
The Eagles are as good as any Division I team in Ohio, especially if Darien Knowles (19 points), a Lorain kid, plays like he did tonight.
"If we can get Darien to play like that all the time, then we would be really good all the time," Flannery said.
The inability to get a defensive stop is what doomed Lorain in this one. The Eagles shot 60.5 percent from the field in the win.
However, Lorain left the game feeling proud. The Titans put the basketball program back on the map and were a few defensive possessions away from knocking off a defending state champion. It's a year to remember.
Play of the game
Right at the end of the first half, St. Edward pushed its lead to 34-23 on a Nichols 3-pointer at the buzzer. It was a deflating shot for the Titans, which instead of trailing by eight points hit the break down double-digits.
The teams traded buckets early, and St. Edward held a 15-14 lead. That changed quickly, as the Eagles went on a 10-3 run to push the lead to eight points. St. Edward seemingly held that advantage for the rest of the game.
Who stood out for St. Edward
Knowles: When Knowles plays like this, the Eagles are nearly impossible to beat. He was 6-for-7 from the field and 7-for-9 from the foul line.
Nichols: Dominant from the tip, Nichols finished with 31 points and six rebounds. He looked like he did in Columbus last season.
Mike Ryan: The quiet senior forward had solid 10 points for the Eagles, including one of the team's two 3-pointers.
Who stood out for Lorain
Andrews: Playing with an injured right hand, Andrews was 9-for-12 from the field. Against one of the best teams in the state, the senior was able to score when he wanted.
Rashod Berry: Two quick fouls altered his night, but the senior still had 10 points and five rebounds. He now heads to Ohio State to play football.
Naz Bohanon: Every bit as good as Derek Funderburk on Wednesday, Bohanon finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. As a sophomore, he's the team's best returning player and is ready to be a star.
St. Edward sound bites
Flannery on Lorain: "They have a special story, and it's a great story. Coach Rositano did an unbelievable job with that team this year. They did not quit."
Knowles on playing Lorain: "I would get texts saying that they would take us down in the playoffs. Half my family was here tonight."
Nichols on getting to the basket: "We thought it would be harder to get to the rim. Once we saw their defense we knew we would be able to penetrate, and we started taking advantage of that."
Nichols on Flannery: "The best coach in America right here. That's no joke. We listen to his game plan and just try to execute."
Lorain sound bites
Andrews on the big crowd: "It means a lot. The past few years we haven't had too many fans. Now every game it's packed."
Coach John Rositano on fan support: "Our fans were tremendous not just tonight but all year. They were with us all year since the first game. The city of Lorain was tremendous for us. I told the guys in the locker room that the three seniors brought Lorain basketball back to what it used to be."
Rositano on not giving up: "This team could have easily ran it out on us, but we fought back and fought back. We kept fighting. These guys are winners and have been winners all year."
60.5 - field goal percentage for St. Edward
29 - first-half field goal percentage for Lorain
14 - offensive rebounds for Lorain
8 - steals for St. Edward
2 - bench points in the game