Villa Angela-St. Joseph senior point guard Jerry Higgins was not exactly thrilled after the Vikings suffered a 75-63 loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary on Dec. 8 at Viking Village.
However, the All-Ohioan is realistic about this year’s squad.
Higgins scored a game-high 25 points for the Vikings, who slipped to 1-2 with a second loss in as many nights to a quality opponent.
On Dec. 7, Higgins recorded 22 points in a 94-81 road loss to Division I Cleveland Heights.
Higgins said games like the back-to-back affairs at Cleveland Heights and vs. SVSM could be beneficial later this winter despite the results.
“That’s the challenge we’ll face as we move through this season. In the long run, we’ll get better and learn to play St. Joe’s basketball. We need to keep grinding. We are always gearing up for March and this year is no different.”
One of those young Vikings, freshman point guard Jaden Hameed, put in 16 points against the Irish after getting 17 against Cleveland Heights.
SVSM junior guard Lunden McDay finished with a team-high 14 points. Finishing with 12 points apiece were senior guard Scott Walker, sophomore forward Jalen Ross and freshman guard Seth Wilson. Junior forward Keyshawn Jones added 10 points.
The Irish shot 49.1 percent overall from the field despite going 1-of-13 from 3-point range. VASJ shot 45.2 percent and made 8 of 27 3s.
SVSM, the defending D-II state champion, had a 19-15 lead after one quarter. The Vikings allowed just nine points in the second quarter to take a 30-28 lead at halftime.
The third quarter began with the Vikings assuming control. VASJ got a 3-pointer from Higgins to open the early run and consecutive 3s from junior forward Graham Koppelman to move ahead, 39-28.
SVSM answered with a 20-2 run through the balance of the quarter and carried a 48-41 lead into the final stanza.
The Fighting Irish saw the lead shrink to three at 50-47 on a basket by Higgins, but SVSM did more than enough down the stretch to secure victory.
VASJ – defending Division III state champs – are playing in Division II this year and could meet SVSM in the sweet 16 this March.