The roster changes. The divisions change. The venue changes.
But the outcome remains the same.
VASJ is once again a district champion.
The Vikings defeated Lake Catholic, 58-47, on March 10 in a Division II Ashtabula Lakeside district final.
VASJ will face Cortland Lakeview in a regional semi on March 15 in Canton.
It is the sixth consecutive trip to the regional tournament for VASJ and the first in Division II in the Babe Kwasniak era since he took over as head coach – a run that has included three state titles since 2013.
“This isn’t easy and people that take it for granted need to understand how much work it is for these kids to do what they did,” Kwasniak said.
“Lake Catholic is so good and will be in the years going forward. We beat a really good team today and this is an indication of the program, not just a team – it’s a culture we have here. We lost talented seniors from last year’s state championship team, had six kids transfer and we keep winning. I’m very proud of these guys.”
All-Ohio point guard Jerry Higgins scored 25 points to lead VASJ. Khalil Mitcham added 12 and Jordan Calhoun had 10, with two big 3s in the first half.
The Vikings (17-8) outscored the Cougars, 17-6, in the decisive third quarter.
“There were plays that Jordan Calhoun made in the first half that kept us in the game. Jerry is Jerry and not enough I can say about him. But we were very good in the third quarter and that is the focus and kind of team we want to be. ….. Can we get beat? Sure, but Jerry is such a leader and today he wouldn’t let that happen.”
VASJ led by only two at the half, but pulled away in the final 16 minutes to secure another trip to the sweet 16.
“We understand this isn’t about us as a team or individuals, but a program,” Higgins said.
“The way Jordan and Khalil and all the guys played is what this is all about. We are a proud program. No matter what division. We beat a really good team today and we have more work to do.”
Higgins is now 23-1 in the state playoffs with state titles in 2015 and 2017.
The last time VASJ didn’t win a district championship was 2012 at Garfield Heights vs. Richmond Heights in a Division IV title game.