GARFIELD HEIGHTS — Columbia learned a lesson Tuesday that other area teams have known for more than three decades: It’s tough to beat Villa Angela-St. Joseph in March.
The Raiders gave it their best shot, hanging close to the Vikings for two and a half quarters before falling 74-46 in a Division III district semifinal.
Facing a top-seeded Vikings team led by 6-foot-10 center Carlton Bragg and 6-8 forward Derek Pardon, Columbia (19-5) came out firing from behind the 3-point arc, but hit just eight of 42 from long range.
“We knew with their inside guys we couldn’t trade twos so we tried to make it an outside-shooting contest,” Columbia coach Larry Babics said. “The thing I am proud of, I know that score seems like a lot, but it seemed like it was a much closer game. You never know how your team is going to respond in a situation like this.
“I thought we came out and held our own, I just wish we could have made a couple more shots.”
Raiders sophomore David Delahunty struck at least a tiny bit of fear in the heart of the VASJ faithful by hitting three of his first four shots and scoring Columbia’s first eight points. He finished with a team-high 16.
“My hat’s off to the Columbia guys,” Vikings coach Babe Kwasniak said. “So many guys spread it out and do the whole stall thing against us. I loved Columbia’s mentality. They came at us, they weren’t afraid of us, they came out and fired up the ball.”
“I caught myself a couple times looking at them shooting and thinking I played for the wrong offensive coordinator in high school. It would have been fun to play like that,” added Kwasniak, who has won four state championships — three as a player and one as a coach — as part of the storied VASJ program.
Jay Banyasz had nine points in his final high school game, while Brandon Severo and Brian Hershey added six points each. The Raiders only turned the ball over six times.
“Jay is a hell of a point guard and our other two senior guards are never afraid to have the ball in their hands,” Babics said. “We’ve handled the ball well all year.”
The Vikings (18-7), the defending Division IV state champions, led 34-23 at the half and went on a 9-3 run in the final three minutes of the third quarter to extend their lead to 20 going into the final period.
Junior Brian Parker led five Vikings in double figures with 20 points.
The Vikings continue their quest to be the first school to win a state championship in all four divisions Friday when they face Warrensville Heights in the district final.
With nine sophomore or juniors in the program, Babics is already looking forward to bringing his team back to Garfield Heights next year to attempt to unseat this year’s finalists.
“VASJ is a young team and so is Warrensville, but we also have a lot of talent coming back,” he said. “If we keep working hard, there’s no reason we can’t be in contention here again next year.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VASJ 74, Columbia 46
COLUMBIA (46): Brandon Severo 2-0-6, Brian Hershey 2-0-6, Jay Banyasz 4-1-9, Michael Boey 1-0-2, David Delahunty 6-0-16, Josh Gibson 1-0-2, Kevin Simon 2-0-4, Brandon Heidecker 0-1-1. Totals 18-2-46.
VASJ (74): Brian Parker 7-6-20, Derek Pardon 3-4-10, Vaughn Johnson 4-0-10, Jeff Grudzinski 0-1-1, Simon Texidor 4-2-13, Malik Smith 2-0-4, Deandre Forte 0-2-2, Carlton Bragg 6-4-14. Totals 25-19-74.
Columbia 14 9 10 13 — 46
VASJ 18 16 19 21 — 74
Three-point goals: Columbia (Delahunty 4, Sevaro 2, Hershey 2), VASJ (Texidor 3, Johnson 2). Field goals: Columbia 18-60 (30 percent), VASJ 25-52 (48 percent). Free throws: Columbia 2-5 (40 percent), VASJ 19-28 (68 percent). Rebounds: Columbia 31, VASJ 50. Turnovers: Columbia 6, VASJ 7. Total fouls: Columbia 20, VASJ 14. Fouled out: Simon.