COLUMBUS, Ohio – Remember the journey.
The Roger Bacon boys’ basketball team didn’t receive the result it ultimately wanted Saturday night, but Spartans coach Brian Neal prefers to remember the entire body of work this season.
Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph defeated Roger Bacon 54-52 in a Division III state final in front of 8,172 Saturday night at the Schottenstein Center.
“I’m extremely proud of them, and this result doesn’t diminish anything we’ve done,” Neal said. “And sometimes that’s why happens in life. You work your tail off, do everything you possibly can, and sometimes you still come up short. Sometimes it’s hard to swallow. I hope they remember the journey we took together and some of the lessons we tried to impart on them.”
Roger Bacon (25-5) was led by several players Saturday, including senior forward Justin Johnson with 14 points, senior forward James Johnson with 13 points and five rebounds and sophomore guard Alec Pfriem with 12 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Senior point guard Craig McGee Jr. had eight points, four rebounds and three assists in his final high school game. This weekend was also his third trip to the state Final Four.
The Spartans struggled from the field early and missed their first four shots. But Roger Bacon persevered late in the first quarter and went on a 9-0 run until the 4:24 mark of the second.
Villa Angela-St. Joseph (23-6) was led by junior guard Jerry Higgins with 16 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore forward/center Alonzo Gaffney had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard William Butler had 10 points.
“It was two fantastic teams battling hard,” Neal said. “For most of the game it was a one possession game. It was back and forth during a lot of the game.”
Roger Bacon trailed by one at halftime and grabbed the lead three times in the first four-plus minutes.
McGee’s basket at the 4:48 mark of the third quarter gave the Spartans their final lead of the game. He made a free throw to tie it at 30 with three minutes left, but Roger Bacon would never get as close.
The Vikings went on a 9-0 run from the end of the third through the early fourth quarter. The Vikings led by as much as seven (40-33) with 6:07 left.
Prfriem cut the lead to two twice, and Roger Bacon made a pair of 3's, but the Vikings made free throws down the stretch.
Roger Bacon was trying to capture its first state boys’ basketball title Saturday night since its famous upset of LeBron James-led Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in 2002.
The Spartans made their third state Final Four since 2014 Friday and did not disappoint in the semifinal. Roger Bacon defeated Archbold 68-43 Friday.
Roger Bacon was also a Division III state semifinalist in 2016 and 2014. The Spartans defeated Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary 71-63 in the Division II final March 23, 2002.
The Spartans won the AAA state title in 1982. Roger Bacon was a 1939 Class A state runner-up and a Class A state qualifier in 1938.
Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph was a Division III state runner-up in 2016 and a state champion in 2015. The Vikings have also won state titles in 2013, 1995, 1994, 1992 and 1991.