Cleveland Villa-Angela St. Joseph finished the regular season as the second-ranked Division IV school in Ohio according to the Associated Press poll. There are many people who believe the Vikings are possibly the best high school basketball team in any of the four divisions, including Division I.
After Tuesday night, there are many Windham fans who wouldn't disagree about the status of the Vikings. Windham, making its eighth appearance in the Canton Regional in the last 10 years, were overpowered by St. Joseph in the Division IV regional semifinals 93-56 at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.
The Vikings (22-4) lost all four games this year to Division I schools and start three players who are Division I college prospects. It didn't take long for the Vikings to assume command with a front line of 6-foot-9, 6-8 and 6-3. Coming off the bench are 6-7 and 6-5 backups.
The Bombers (23-3) can only muster a player at 6-2, and it was like a wing and a prayer for most of the 32 minutes. St. Joe hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter and rolled to a 30-13 advantage after one period of play.
The Vikings pushed the lead to over 20 points midway through the second quarter and held a 44-21 lead at intermission.
Veteran Windham coach Marty Hill is one of those guys who believes that St. Joe could be the best in the state.
"What is impressive about them is the fact we knew they were strong, big and aggressive, but they shot the ball a lot better than I thought," said Hill. "They had guys come off the bench that can really shot. They are a real quality team and tough to beat by anyone.
"You always run into a good team when you get this far in the tournament, but these guys were so athletic and the biggest we have ever met that I can remember."
At the end of the third quarter the Vikings had doubled the score on Windham at 70-35 -- including four dunks -- and had a rebounding edge of 23-11.
The Bombers had their best offensive production in the final quarter, challenging the Vikings 23-21 for a final count of 93-56.
Sophomore Parker Rickey led the Bombers with 21 points, while outgoing seniors Cameron Pozsgai and Matt Knight each finished their careers with 11 points.
St. Joe has only three seniors on the team. The 6-8 Demonte Flannigan, who finished the game with 11 points and nine rebounds, has committed to Cleveland State. Duane Gibson, who scored 13 points, will be playing at Evansville next year. And 6-9 sophomore Carlton Bragg led his team with 23 points. Bragg is ranked as the 23rd-best sophomore in high school basketball nationally.
The Vikings had five players in double figures, with Simon Texidor coming off the bench and hitting four 3s to finish with 17 points, while Deandre Forte also scored 11.
"I think we played a little too fast in the first quarter," said Hill. "We wanted our kids to take the outside shots if they had them because we wanted to build their confidence, but we did not make the best shot selection in that first quarter. We like to get up and down the floor, but when you get to the basket it's a little different when they have a guy 6-9 staring at you," grinned Hill.
"We have had a great season," said Hill. "I told the kids that when you get this far you sometimes just run into a better team, but that doesn't take away from our season. We finished undefeated in our league and won the district title for the third year in a row and had a great ride."