State Finals Notebook: St. Thomas Aquinas' Cinderella run comes to an end

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The glass slipper broke for the St. Thomas Aquinas Black Knights on Saturday afternoon on the floor of Value City Arena at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University.

The Knights played unbeaten Convoy Crestview tough in the first half and only trailed 26-23 at intermission. However, the wheels came off at the start of the second half.

Crestview (29-0) scored the first 18 points of the second half to take most of the fight out of the underdog Knights.

St. Thomas could manage to score only three points in the third quarter and trailed 46-26 entering the final quarter. Crestview rolled to complete a 29-game streak and take home the championship with a 71-44 victory. Crestview is the first team in 53 years to win 29 games and claim a state title.

St. Thomas finished the regular season at 11-11, then won seven in a row before yesterday. The last and only time St. Thomas made it to the final four was in 1975. Coach Matt Hackenberg was joined at the postgame interview with teary eyed Anthony Moeglin and Sam Pusateri.

"This was not the expected ending we were looking for, but you have to give credit to a team like Crestview," said Hackenberg. "They are really good, they really 'D' it up and really made it hard for us to get good looks. I am real proud of what we accomplished, but (Crestview) are a very good team."

Crestview pulled down nine offensive rebounds, seven of them in the first half. They finished the game hitting just shy of 60 percent, while St. Thomas could net only 39 percent from the floor.

"They really take care of the basketball and play with their heads up. They are very physical and rebound exceptionally well," added Hackenberg.

Moeglin held up his T-shirt and proudly talked about how the Knights were one of only 16 teams here this weekend.

"We are up there with some of the great teams," Moeglin said. "Maybe we didn't show it today, but I am really proud of the team."

A GREAT DAY TO BE A TRUCKER

Opening championship action on Saturday was defending Division II title holder, Columbus Bishop Watterson, against the Norwalk Truckers, who have never been on this stage before in school history.

It didn't take long for Norwalk to show the large crowd there was a reason they made the trip.

The Truckers, led by Malone recruit Ben Haraway, pulled away to a 31-19 halftime advantage. Haraway had 15 points and a pair of assists in the first half.

Norwalk could not put Watterson away and with 3:19 remaining in the game, the Truckers led only 50-45 when Matt Lehman hit a 3-pointer for the Eagles. However, the Truckers prevailed when Haraway went to the line three times in the last 30 seconds and sank 5-of-6 free throws to help his team claim a 65-58 state title. Haraway finished the game with 29 points, three assists, three blocks and a steal.

"It's a great day to be a Trucker," said Norwalk head coach Steve Gray. "Never question the heart of a champion and these guys are champions even if we would not have been successful today. Ben (Haraway) came to a couple open gyms when he was in 8th grade, and I knew he could play, but I didn't realize how good he was."

Haraway scored over 1,000 points and 500 assists and been a starter for four years. He was one of the most impressive players of the tournament and Malone is getting a steal.

ATTENDENCE SPIKE

The OHSAA annual budget is very dependant on ticket sales for state tournaments throughout the year. Attendance at the boys basketball tournament have shown a steady drop since 2003, which happens to be Lebron James' last appearance. Through the first seven games of the tournament, the average attendance was about 9,500 in a place that holds over 18,000.

Director of Information Services Tim Stried said the OHSAA is concerned because tournament income is responsible for about 75 percent of the budget revenue. Stried predicted a good turnout for the final game Friday, which he said would probably get the tournament back on their expected average. He was right with over 14,000 people showing up for the Upper Arlington game.

The Division II title game Saturday morning saw a crowd of 14,614 and over 11,000 showed up for the Division IV championship game.

I remember the old days at St John's Arena when you had to fight for a ticket and every game was a sellout in a building that only held about 13,500.

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