Wildcats edge Pacers in state semifinal, 54-53


The Delaware Hayes boys basketball team had the lead, the ball and just 23.5 seconds separating it from a chance to play for its first state championship in program history.

St. Ignatius, though, had the answers down the stretch, getting a driving layup from Quinn Woidke with 11 seconds left to secure a thrilling 54-53 Division I state semifinal win Saturday night at UD Arena in Dayton.

Clinging to the one-point lead, the Pacers (27-2) had trouble inbounding the ball. Once they did, the Wildcats forced a steal and, after a timeout to talk about it, Woidke drove hard to the hole before netting what proved to be the game-winner with just more than 10 seconds to play.

Jake Lowman got a look at a three-pointer in the final seconds, and Carter Piatt-Brown had a chance at a putback, but neither dropped.

“Those guys are long, physical and can guard,” Hayes coach Adam Vincenzo said of the Wildcats. “We had the ball in some awkward spots on the sideline and had to take our timeouts to protect us … we just didn’t seal long enough in that one spot, they got the turnover and made a play.

“In a game like this, tiny execution matters a lot. We executed a lot throughout the game, but just that little tiny detail … they were better than us in that last 30 seconds and made a couple plays there.”

Down 19-11 after the first quarter and 31-23 at halftime, the Pacers looked a lot more like themselves in the third quarter, outscoring the Wildcats 20-8 to completely flip the script.

It took just half the quarter to erase the deficit and take its first lead as Landon Vanderwarker and Jesse Burris scored back-to-back buckets to Hayes up with 4:01 left in the third.

Vanderwarker converted a three-point play the hard way to balloon the lead even more and Chase Griggs beat the third-quarter buzzer with a floater on the baseline to swell the spread to 43-39 heading into the final eight minutes of action.

The Pacers rode their top horses all game long. Burris and fellow senior Lowman played all but a few seconds of the game and Vanderwarker, a junior, played the entire thing.

“Coach V drew up plays where we were both on the same side getting cuts off each other,” Vanderwarker said of the second-half plan for him and Burris, who combined to score 38 of Hayes’ 53 points. “We were trying to get each other the ball in the second half and I don’t think they were ready for it.”

The Wildcats had an answer, though.

St. Ignatius (25-3) went back on top when Jack Zapolnik scored with 3:42 left, making it a 46-45 game. Zapolnik was then called for a foul at the other end, and, after disagreeing with it, got pegged with a technical foul, his fifth, effectively ending his night.

Burris hit both of the ensuing free throws, Vanderwarker split the two technicals and Lowman, who drew a foul when play resumed, split a pair of his own to make it a 51-48 game with 1:38 left.

Two more Burris free throws gave Hayes a 53-52 lead heading into the final 23.5-second sequence.

“Congratulations to coach Adam and Delaware Hayes,” St. Ignatius coach Cam Joyce said. “They had an incredible season, a great run and that’s a helluva team … we have a lot of respect for that opponent. It came down to the wire between two great teams and we were fortunate it went our way.”

The loss ends what was the best season the Pacers have ever had on the hardwood.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had with the game of basketball,” Vincenzo said. “We’ve got a locker room full of phenomenal human beings, and that’s what it’s all about. I hope it’s evident to the outsider how much we love each other when we play the game of basketball. That’s what we’re gonna miss. We’re losing three phenomenal people … we got a lot back, though.”

Vanderwarker poured in a game-best 21 points and nine rebounds while Burris finished with 17 points and eight boards. Jeremiah Russell also had a nice game, closing with seven points, while Lowman had a team-high six assists.

Damon Friery led the Wildcats with 16 points while Wiodke had 15.

No posts to display