Sunday, March 26, 2000

St. X lands state title

Basketball championship 1st for Bombers

The Cincinnati Enquirer

St. Xavier players celebrate the school's first state basketball title.
(Steven M. Herppich photos)
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        COLUMBUS — The celebration went on and on with no St. Xavier players or coaches in a hurry to leave the Schottenstein Center.

        This outpouring of emotion followed St. Xavier's 63-54 victory over the Bedford Bearcats in the Division I state championship game, giving the Bombers their first state basketball championship.

        “This is the greatest feeling,” senior guard Steve Sollmann said. “Every athlete has the ambition to win a state championship and we did it.”

        When the buzzer sounded to end the game, the players and coaches broke into celebration, along with cheerleaders who rushed onto the floor. Moments later, coach Scott Martin was lifted onto the shoulders of the players.

        A victory celebration will be held at St. Xavier at 1 p.m. today after the team returns from Columbus.

        The state championship trophy was St. Xavier's 27th, and its second this school year. The swim team won the state title in February.

        The swim team leads the way with 22 total state titles, followed by golf (two) and one each in cross country, soccer and basketball.

Andy Larkin
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        Every school in the Greater Catholic League now has won at least one state championship in either football, basketball or baseball.

        Since 1993 when Elder won the Division I state championship, every team in the GCL South has won a state title.

        “The key tonight was mental toughness,” senior guard Dan Kennedy said. “We played like a team and remained focused.”

        Although the final margin was nine points, the Bombers had to fight off a fourth-quarter run by Bedford that got the Bearcats back within six at 56-50 with 3:56 remaining.

        “Coach told us at halftime that they would come out with more intensity the second half than any team we've played all season,” senior forward Andy Larkin said.

        Martin pointed to St. Xavier's defense and rebounding as keys to the victory. Bedford guard Kamil Wilson, who was averaging 25 points per game, had only two at halftime and finished with 18.

Steve Sollmann and Larkin on defense.
(Ap photo)
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        “We knew they had to great guards,” Martin said. “We wanted to stop their penetration and control the defensive boards. “Steve (Sollmann), Steve (Callahan), Dan (Kennedy) and Jordan (Cornette) did a good job defensing them.”

        Larkin scored 14 points and senior forward John Cronin added 12 points to lead the Bombers.

        “Jon has been exceptional throughout the tournament,” Martin said. “He picked us again tonight.”

        Cronin was helped by a fast start.

        “I hit my first two shots and this gave me confidence,” Cronin said. “I thought deep down, early in the season, that we could do it but it was too far out to think much about it.”

        After Bedford's run in the fourth quarter brought the Bearcats within six points of the Bombers, Callahan sank five free throws and Larkin made three during the final two minutes to ice the victory.

Steve Callahan
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        “We watched the Purcell Marian game and talked to the kids about not letting that happen to them,” Martin said. “They remained focused and kept their composure.”

        After taking a 35-22 halftime lead, the Bombers continued to control the tempo and extended the lead to 52-37 with eight minutes remaining.

        St. Xavier went into a slowdown to start the fourth quarter, but abandoned the strategy after the Bearcats crept within 11 points of the lead following two successive turnovers.

        The Bombers played a near-perfect game during the first 16 minutes, commiting only three turnovers and forcing eight by the Bearcats. St. X sank 14 of 31 shots from the field and four of its six free throws.

        Cronin was one of St. Xavier spark plugs, scoring nine points, Larkin added seven and Soll mann scored six, converting two crucial 3-pointers.

        After a slow start against Bedford's 2-3 zone that saw St. X fall behind 6-4, Cornette started an 8-0 scoring run with two free throws. Larkin followed with a field goal and Sollmann sank a 3-pointer. Then Larkin converted one free throw for a 12-6 lead with 1:48 remaining.

Steve Sollmann
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        Cornette and Sollmann each sank 3-pointers during the final 30 seconds of the first quarter, giving the Bombers into an 18-10 lead.

        The Bombers were 6-of-16 from the field in the first quarter and commited two turnovers. Bedford was 3-of-10 with four turnovers and Wilson was held scoreless.

        But then St. Xavier's depth started to take its toll on Bedford. With Martin shuffling in 10 players, the Bearcats appeared to tire as the second quarter progressed.

        This enabled St. X to get the ball inside to Cronin, who responded with seven points. Larkin and Nick Larsen each scored on shots inside the paint.

        St. Xavier's only other appearance in a state championship game was in 1965 when the Bombers lost to Springfield South 54-53.

        BEDFORD (54) — Birch 3-10 4-4 10, Curry 1-2 0-02, Melton 7-17 1-2 17, Wilson 8-21 3-3 22, Rias 0-3 0-0 0, Bradley 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 20-54 8-9 54.

        ST. XAVIER (63) — Cornette 1-10 2-2 5, Cronin 6-8 1-2 13, Larkin 5-11 4-6 14, Callahan 3-6 4-6 10, Kennedy 0-1 0-0 0, Keating 0-1 0-0 0, Larsen 4-5 0-1 8, Bast 1-1 0-0 2, Waligora 0-1 0-0 0, Sollmann 2-6 2-4 6. Totals 24-54 12-18 63.

        Bedford ....... 10  12  15  17—54

        St. Xavier ....... 18  17  17  11—63

        3-pointers: B 6-22 (Melton 2, Wilson 3, Bradley). S 3-12 (Sollmann 2, Cornette). Assists: B 4, S 9. Rebounds: B 34 (Birch 8), S 35 (Larkin 7). Steals: B 5, S 4. Turnovers: B 12, S 11. Blocks: B 3, S 7. Officials: Kevin Schwarzel, William Cook, David Hopkins. Records: St. Xavier 25-2, Bedford 21-6.


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