COLUMBUS The St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish held true to their reputation Thursday night.
The six-time state champions used athleticism and a sizzling 25-for-42 (59.5 percent) shooting performance to eliminate the Warren Warriors 70-51 in a Division II state semifinal contest at Value City Arena.
With eight players on their roster listed at 6-foot-3 or taller, the Irish held a big advantage on the boards, outrebounding Warren 32-22.
"They're strong," said Warren head coach Blane Maddox. "They've got good hops."
Nick Wells, a 6-6 senior, poured in 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting and recorded a game-high seven rebounds while 6-7 freshman V.J. King added 14 points and six boards. Jalen Hudson, a 6-6 junior, also reached double figures with 12 points.
Warren junior Reece Patton led everyone with 21 points and added six rebounds. Sophomore Michael Hall contributed 15 markers and five counters.
Junior Evan French, who played exceptionally well all throughout the postseason, got into foul trouble early and was never able to get into a rhythm. French finished with five points, fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
"I thought we executed our game plan pretty good," said Irish boss Dru Joyce. "We got French into foul trouble early which was big.
"We wanted to make sure that if (French) got some (points), he had to work hard for it and earn it."
St. Vincent-St. Mary opened the game on a 6-1 run, but 3-pointers by Patton and senior Dylan Leffingwell cut it to 9-7.
After a basket by St. Mary's Jordan Hargrove, Patton hit another trey to make it 11-10. Wells countered with a 3-point play before Warren took its only lead of the game on five straight points from Hall to make it 15-14.
Wells then poured in five straight of his own before Hall nailed a jumper to make it 19-17 after one quarter.
"I'm really proud of the way we came out and battled," Maddox said. "We hit some big shots early to stay in it. We played really tough."
Jalen Hudson recorded a steal and turned it into a slam dunk to open the second period. Later, Patton scored five straight points for the Warriors to make the score 24-21, but a runner by Hudson and a bucket by Hargrove extended it to 28-22.
Patton nailed his third triple of the game to bring it to 30-26, but the Fighting Irish went on a 9-1 run to close out the half up 39-27.
The lead increased to 18 points for the Irish after the third quarter. A 3-pointer by French and a basket by Patton brought it to a 12-point game midway through the third, but that was as close as the Warriors would get.
In the final minutes of the game, senior Matt Drayer and juniors Corey Newlon and Andrew Drayer all hit baskets, but it was not enough as St. Vincent-St. Mary held on for the 19-point victory to claim a spot in the state championship.
The Warriors finished the 2012-13 campaign with a 26-2 record.
With the deepest postseason run in school history, the Warriors certainly have a lot to be proud of.
"It's the most fulfilling feeling I've ever had," Patton said. "Just being here on the big stage. It's never been done before at our school. It's just something special and I'm proud of our guys."
Hall added "It's special to be here. We've gotta come back next year and work even harder."