Pacers head to Dayton as a family


The Delaware Hayes boys basketball team is headed to Dayton to compete in its first state tournament in program history.

The Pacers aren’t going as simply a team, though.

They’re going as a family … something that’s helped them all season long.

“With my family not being from Central Ohio, they’re not at every game,” Hayes coach Adam Vincenzo said after he — and his family — watched the Pacers punch a ticket to the state Final Four with a 74-56 regional finial win over Olentangy Orange last Saturday night at ODU’s Alumni Hall. “So, having them here means the world … my wife’s side of the family is all here, too. Family is very important to me … that’s why we’re a family here as a program … that’s why we built it the way we did.”

Jesse Burris, who became the leading scorer in program history earlier in the season, gets a lot of the attention. The senior standout had a team-best 17 points, including a half-court buzzer-beater, six rebounds and two steals in the win over the Pioneers.

He got plenty of help, though — in the regional final and each and every one of the Pacers’ other 26 wins this season.

“This is a team game, so being able to have brothers I can rely on night in and night out … it’s awesome,” Burris said after last Saturday’s win. “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”

Either could Landon Vanderwarker, who transferred into the program over the offseason.

“When I first came in, Coach V said, ‘We got something special here and you just made it even better. We have four great starters and a good team, and when you came in, that made our team complete.’”

Vanderwarker, who finished with four points in the regional semifinal win over Hilliard Bradley, chipped in a double-double — 16 points and 12 boards — against Orange.

“He can dominate the game in a lot of ways,” Vincenzo said. “The other night, he only had four points, but he had a lot of rebounds and he can dominate the paint … and we have a lot of other guys who can go and do things, too.”

Everyone contributed against the Pioneers — Jake Lowman added 12 points and four assists, Jeremiah Russell poured in 14 points, Carter Piatt-Brown had seven points, five rebounds and two steals and Chase Griggs had eight points.

The Pacers (27-1) will need more of the same in Dayton, too, as they’re set to face Cleveland St. Ignatius (24-3) in Saturday’s state semifinal at UD Arena.

The Wildcats, who are making their third trip to Dayton in the last four years, punched their ticket with a 46-43 win over Brunswick last Saturday at Kent State. Senior Reece Robinson had 11 points and a game-best 11 rebounds in the win.

St. Ignatius lost to two-time defending Division IV state champion Richmond Heights without senior point guard Jack Zapolnik, but bounced back with a double-overtime win over Reynoldsburg the next day in Columbus.

The Wildcats beat Brunswick for the first time back in early January and followed it up with a win on the other side of the state, a double-OT thriller at Centerville, which just so happens to be one of the other Final Four representatives.

Hayes and St. Ignatius will kick things off in the first semifinal at 5:15 p.m. with a showdown between Centerville (18-8) and Toledo Whitmer (25-2) to follow. The winners will return for Sunday night’s championship game.

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