Canton, OH- Before the clock could strike zero, Falcon players and coaches were embracing each other with tight hugs and high fives to celebrate success that not many basketball programs can say they’ve accomplished.
“The feeling never gets old,” Lutheran East head coach Sam Liggins said after hoisting his sixth straight regional trophy. “I’m so happy for each and every one of those guys that worked hard everyday for me.”
Lutheran East (20-5) jumped out to an early 22-8 lead after the first quarter behind a dominant start from freshman TJ Crumble. Crumble scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter due to the Falcons' size advantage in the middle between him and junior forward Jesse McCulloch.
In the second quarter junior wing Ronald Taylor heated up behind the arc, knocking down two straight threes to bump the lead up over 20. Cody Head and Chauncey Brashers led the charge on defense, collecting a steal each.
McCulloch after going scoreless in the first quarter inserted himself in the most dominant way with three blocks and four points in the second. The Falcons held a 39-11 lead at the half.
Cuyahoga Heights (23-4) started the second half dominant with a chance to do the impossible. Juniors Braylon McClardy and Cade Davies put the team on their back combining for 13 of the team’s 21 points, including three triples. Senior’s Eli Walton and Nate Biggers each added a triple to help the team outscore the Falcons by 2 in the quarter.
For what seemed like a complacent quarter to coaches on the Falcons staff, the players quickly bounced back early in the fourth quarter. Head knocked in two triples, Brashers and Taylor added one additional triple before Liggins pulled his starters.
Junior big man Alan Mallory would not be denied from the scoring party scoring back-to-back layups for the Falcons before Red Wolves head coach Mike Tartara pulled his starters for his reserves.
McClardy and Davies each led Cuyahoga Heights with 13 points. McCulloch and Head each assisted Crumbled with 16 points. Ronald Taylor finished with 15 points.
Lutheran East moves on to play Canal Winchester Harvest Prep next Saturday at 2 p.m. at University of Dayton Arena for an opportunity to win their second state championship in three years.