COLUMBUS – The Norwalk Truckers will truck on to Saturday’s Div. II state title game.
Norwalk used a strong second half to top Dayton Thurgood Marshall on Thursday, 72-64, behind big games from Ben Haraway and Jeff Thomas. The Truckers actually created a little breathing room in the final two minutes after winning their regional games in overtime and by one point, 54-53 over Lima Bath, last Saturday.
Haraway had 20 points and 8 assists. Thomas had 20 points and 9 rebounds, and Grant Hull scored 17, going a perfect 7-of-7 from the free throw line. Thomas will play at Georgia State next season, while Haraway plans to play at Malone University in Canton.
The win was Norwalk’s 75th in the last three seasons but clearly the school’s biggest ever. Norwalk is the only team at the state tournament this making the first appearance in school history.
The Truckers play defending champion Columbus Bishop Watterson for the state championship on Saturday morning. All four title games will be shown live on Sportstime Ohio.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary senior Jalen Hudson signed last November to play at Virginia Tech, but the school fired coach James Johnson earlier this week.
That often means the old staff’s recruits are left in limbo, and that could be the case for Hudson.
After St. V-M’s loss to Watterson Thursday, Hudson said he has to "wait and see" who is hired and what the new coaching staff thinks, but said he "signed at Virginia Tech and right now, I am committed to Virginia Tech."
An athletic 6’5 wing, Hudson will be coveted if he’s released from his letter of intent.
ALL SET: Convoy Crestview remained Ohio’s only unbeaten team, getting to 28-0 with a hard-fought 54-50 win over New Madison Tri-Village in Thursday’s nightcap. The Knights advance to play Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas Saturday for the Div. IV title.
St. Thomas Aquinas (18-11) pulled away in the second half to Canal Winchester Harvest Prep, 54-41, in the first semifinal. Jacob Paul led Aquinas with 15 points, going 9-of-9 from the free throw line. Harvest Prep lost for just the second time all season, finishing 26-2.
Both Crestview and St. Thomas Aquinas will be going for their first state title on Saturday.
ON FRIDAY: The Div. III semifinals have Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph vs. Columbus Bishop Ready at 10:45 a.m. and Cincinnati Roger Bacon vs. Lima Central Catholic at 2 p.m. The Div. I semifinals are Cleveland East Tech vs. Lakewood St. Edward at 5:15 and Trotwood-Madison vs. Upper Arlington at 8:30 p.m.
Roger Bacon has lost in the regionals in each of the last three seasons. The Spartans are back in the state tournament for the first time since 2002, when the school pulled one of the all-time upsets and beat LeBron James and St. V-M in the Div. II title game.
Trotwood-Madison is back for the first time since 2006. Upper Arlington is making its first state tournament appearance since 1939.
SELECT COMPANY: Crestview will try to become just the sixth team to finish unbeaten this century. Dayton Dunbar most recently did it in 2012 with a Div. II state title.
James’ St. V-M team did not lose on the court but had to forfeit a game after James was ruled inelgible for taking jerseys from a Cleveland store owner. The ruling was later overturned and James returned to win his third state title in four years.
BACK FOR MORE: Watterson is the only team that can technically repeat as state champion this weekend, but Villa Angela-St. Joseph is also going for back-to-back titles. The Vikings won the Div. IV crown last year and with a Div. III title this week can become the first school to win a title in all four divisions.
Last week’s two regional wins were VASJ’s first two games decided by single digits in the postseason in the last two years. VASJ plays in the North Coast League with St. Thomas Aquinas.
Watterson, VASJ and St. V-M are the only 2013 state tournament participants to qualify again this season.