Boys basketball: Vikings win intense battle

Barry Booher/ VASJ’s Demonte Flannigan splits the defense of Lake’s Dan Schweikert (42) and Mike Whalen.

Friday’s game between Villa Angela-St. Joseph and host Lake Catholic was billed as a showdown on the hardwood between two surging NCL teams.

It turned into somewhat of an emotional streetfight.

While Cougars standout Joey Vuyancih did everything in his power to will the home team to victory with a superb individual effort, fittingly, it was the biggest man on the court who made sure his team was the last one standing in this basketball battle royal.

In a game that featured four technical fouls, blood on the court and a raucous, capacity crowd, star sophomore Demonte Flannigan scored 15 of his 21 points in the second half, pulled down 20 rebounds and blocked four shots to lead the Vikings to an 82-75 win.

The Vikings (8-6) needed every point, rebound, block, and altered shot in the lane from Flannigan as Vuyancih scored 39 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. The talented junior guard scored 23 of Lake Catholic’s 40 second-half points.

“We expected this to be a battle and for it to be intense, and it was just a matter of which team wanted it more,” Flannigan said. “I’m glad we came out with the win. This gives our team a lot of confidence going forward.”

Flannigan — a 6-foot-7 Division I recruit, who was named All-Ohio as a freshman — stepped out to a hit a long 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter and then followed that up with eight points in the fourth.

The highlight for VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak was Flannigan’s game-clinching offensive rebound and putback off a missed free throw with 18 seconds to play to put the Vikings up, 80-75.

“That had to be one of the best rebounds I have ever seen,” Kwasniak said of Flannigan’s late putback. “Obviously the sky is the limit for him. It’s funny because I will get on him and tell him I am not sure if he would have been All-Ohio as a freshman back in my days at VASJ, and then he goes out and makes an unbelievable play like that. He is a lot of fun to watch and he is only getting better.”

Flannigan received plenty of help from his teammates, particularly junior Karlton Garner, who scored 21 of his team-high 28 points in the first half and hit a critical 3-pointer with 1:35 to play to give VASJ a 76-72 edge. Garner also hit 5 of 7 from beyond the arc in the first half to help the Vikings take a 45-35 lead at the break.

Lake Catholic (9-4) fell behind by as many as 19 in the first half, but pulled to within one on two separate occasions in the final 2 minutes. Cougars junior Joe Klauer hit four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points to help take some of the offensive pressure off Vuyancih. But guard Mike Whalen — who averages 15 points per game — was saddled with foul trouble all game and was limited to three points.

Watching Vuyancih and Flannigan trade big plays down the stretch gave Kwasniak a thought.

“At one point, I thought maybe it would have been better if we just let Joey and Demonte play one-on-one,” Kwasniak said jokingly. “Seriously, though, I thought about having Demonte cover Joey at one point. He was that good tonight.

“If Joey Vuyancih isn’t a Division I player, than I don’t know who is. I played Division I college ball and he is better than I was, no doubt about it.”

There was no doubt that rebounding and foul shooting were two big factors — along with the 6-7 Flannigan — as to why the Cougars came up short in a game that had more of a tournament feel than a contest played in late January.

VASJ outrebounded Lake Catholic, 50-29, and the Cougars missed six free throws in the fourth quarter and were 22 of 32 for the evening.

“We have got to do a better job of rebounding and getting a body on people, but I think a lot of that is because we were so concerned with Flannigan that we missed some of their other guys,” Lake Catholic coach Mark Chicone said. “And the foul shooting in the fourth was not good. You would love to have a few of those back and see where you are then.

“We always get great support from our fans and the VASJ people usually have a good turnout. People showed up because both teams were playing well and they thought this would be a good game. It was a great atmosphere and a packed house. It was an exciting game, but we just came up a little short.”

Darryl Jones had 11 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for the Vikings. Scott Edelman added eight points and seven rebounds for the Cougars.

Last Updated: 1/29/2011 1:24:39 AM EST

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