COLUMBUS, Ohio – The journey is complete. Big Moe is bringing home the state championship trophy.
The Moeller basketball team defeated Solon 83-65 in the Division I state final Saturday night in front of 9,226 at the Schottenstein Center.
“I’m elated for our school and our kids,” Moeller coach Carl Kremer said. “A great victory. We struggled last night (in the state semifinal). I thought tonight we really played as well as we could play. These are a pretty special group of kids so I am just thrilled.”
The Crusaders (27-3) simply left no doubt with winning the program’s fourth state title.
Moeller celebration in the locker room a few minutes ago. pic.twitter.com/2Kp9WFsX7X
— Mike Dyer (@MikeDyer) March 25, 2018
Moeller, winners of 20 consecutive games and ranked No. 2 in the season’s final Associated Press state poll, shot 71 percent from the field and had 64 points in the paint. It never trailed in the game.
The Crusaders led by 23 points late in the third quarter. Plain and simple: The Crusaders dominated.
Senior guard Jeremiah Davenport had 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Senior forward Jaxson Hayes had 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
Davenport and Hayes had multiple highlight dunks that provided entertainment to the crowd all night.
“It’s means so much,” Hayes said of the state title. “We have 11 seniors…all of us are so close.”
Junior forward Alec Pfriem had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Pfriem said of the state title.
Junior guard Miles McBride had 14 points including 6 of 7 from the free-throw line in just his second game of the season. He made his debut Friday night after a football injury in late September.
“It feels even better just winning,” McBride said of playing in the state final. “You can’t ask for anything more.”
Moeller team photo pic.twitter.com/ebMyrFFU6L
— Mike Dyer (@MikeDyer) March 25, 2018
A year after being the state runner-up, the Crusaders returned to Columbus for the second straight season for the first time in program history.
Every opponent knew how talented Moeller was this season. But, the Crusaders prepared and put in the time and effort to match that talent.
“I am at a loss for words right now,” Davenport said. “I am so happy for my guys, man. It feels so good.”
Moeller also scored the most points in a game since Dec. 26, 2015 when it defeated Mullins (S.C.) 86-49.
“Our whole theme all year has been to pressure the rim,” Kremer said. “(The 64 points in the paint) is pretty indicative that we pressured the rim.”
Saturday marked the fourth state title for Moeller. The Crusaders also won state titles in 2007, 2003 and 1999. This weekend marked the seven state tournament appearance for Moeller.
Moeller was the Division I state runner-up in 2017 and 2010 and a state semifinalist in 2005.
The Crusaders opened with an offensive flurry Saturday leading 6-0 quickly out of the gate. That included two dunks by the 6-foot-10 Hayes.
Davenport connected with Hayes among the other first-half highlights. Senior point guard Isaiah Payton’s 3-pointer gave the Crusaders a 17-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Moeller concluded the first half on a 10-2 run and led 36-23 at halftime. Moeller shot 68.2 percent in the first half. Solon shot 30.4 percent in the first half.
The Crusaders were strong on both ends of the floor in the third quarter, including an alley-oop from Payton to Davenport. A short time later, Davenport’s one-handed slam and layup gave Moeller a 53-32 lead.
Saturday night was the first time a Division I state final matched the top two top-ranked teams in the Associated Press state poll since the 2009 state final (No. 1 Columbus Northland versus No. 2 Princeton). Northland won the 2009 state title.
Solon (26-2) was ranked No. 1 in the final AP poll. Senior guard Sincere Carry had a game-high 27 points for the Comets.
The Cincinnati area had two state boys’ basketball champions in the same season for the first time since 2011. Deer Park won the school’s first state basketball title in Division III earlier Saturday afternoon.
La Salle (Division I) and Taft (Division III) won state titles in 2011.
SEE box score.
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