Updated: Mar 5
Stow-Munroe Falls, OH- "Experience" was the word Villa Angela-St. Joseph (VASJ) head coach Ashton Ward used to describe the difference between his squad and Akron Buchtel's team mainly made up of upperclassmen.
"A lot of our guys are young so to make it this far is a huge accomplishment. The Buchtel team is much more experienced than us, so when we were down 20, it was extremely difficult to come back," Ward said postgame.
Buchtel started the game with a faster pace than the Vikings were used to. Sophomore guard Stevie Diamond scored the first points of the game off an assist from Khoi Thurmon. Thurmond would follow up with two free points from the charity stripe. The Griffs scored the first 20 points of the game before VASJ would put a single point on the board. Buchtel ended the quarter up 21-2.
Both teams started the second quarter sloppy offensively before sophomore guard Sean Shenker splashed a triple for VASJ. Joes would continue on for a 7-4 run until Thurmon muscled his way inside for an and-one layup to keep the lead comfortable at 34-14.
The Griffs would continue their onslaught, opening the second half with a 7-0 run before sophomore guard Ari Jones made a three point play to electrify the Vikings bench. VASJ found a spark of energy, dominating the boards both defensively and offensively to set up a 9-2 run, giving hope to Ward's team, made up of zero seniors.
VASJ grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the quarter. Buchtel took the Vikings best punch of the second half before tightening up the team mistakes and forcing more VASJ turnovers. Thurmon and Marcel Boyce Jr. continued their scoring clinic, with each being over 15 points heading into the final quarter up 56-30.
Both teams scored 14 total points in the final quarter, with VASJ pulling their starters halfway through the quarter to secure the district title for the Griffs. For Thurmon, the first one is always the best one as the point guards who transferred from near Copley High School nearly two years ago.
"I can't lie, the first one definitely feels special, but we know the job is nowhere near done," Thurmon said postgame.
Boyce finished with a team high 22 points for the Griffs while Thurmon finished with 18, and Amire Robinson chipped in with 10. Quandell Wright scored a game-high 25 points for the Vikings.
The Griffs will next face Youngstown Chaney on Thursday, March 9th, at the Canton Memorial Civic Center at 6 p.m. The winner of that game moves on to face the winner of Glenville vs Gilmour Academy.