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Boys Basketball headed to Regional Semi-Final Game

Canton Central Catholic boys basketball looks to continue 'great ride' in OHSAA regionals

Cliff Hickman
Canton Repository
March 13, 2024

The opponent is familiar. So is the stage the Central Catholic boys basketball team will play on. Both could be a help as the Crusaders (18-7) get set to take on Cardinal Mooney (21-5) in an OHSAA Division III regional semifinal at Canton Memorial Field House, 8 p.m. Wednesday.

The Crusaders and Cardinals are familiar with each other. The teams met in January when Mooney pulled out a 61-52 victory over visiting Central. That was the last time the Crusaders lost this season. Central enters regionals riding a 10-game winning streak.

"I think having seen them earlier this season is a help to us," Central's Luke Vlacovsky said. "When we played them the first time it was over at their place and they shot the lights out. They came out and made five 3s in a row or something like that and took control early. I hope we learned a lesson from that and I think we did. If we come out and play how we are capable of playing, I think we have a good chance of being able to win."

Vlacovsky is one reason why the Crusaders have reached this point. He is averaging 18.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game this year. He can function as a primary ball handler and easily create his own shot. Vlacovsky also is dangerous playing off the ball and can knock down open shots.

He is joined by a strong supporting cast that includes senior guard Gavin Layman and a true impact post player in Jonathan Stangl. A group of young players including Joe Meyer and Will Minor have stepped in for injured contributors Lance Vlacovsky and Dylan Minnie, and given Central solid minutes.

"This is definitely a game we are going to be motivated for," Layman said. "We have guys hurt right now. We have persevered through everything. The fact we were able to get back to this point for a second consecutive season considering everything we have gone through is kind of amazing. It's been a great ride and we don't want it to end."

Central meets a team Mooney team that last lost on Jan. 12 to Ursuline (69-58). The Crusaders will have to account for the long-range shooting of the Cardinals. The number of 3-pointers Mooney made against them the first time is not an aberration. Mooney hit 13 in its 84-59 win over South Range in its district final. Ashton O'Brien and Rocco Turner are capable of scoring in bunches quickly for the Cardinals.

"They are a tough team," Central head coach Matt Creamer said. "We know it is a dangerous opponent. We got a look at them earlier this season. We're looking forward to getting to work and trying to find a way to make it further than we did last season. We all want to continue playing."

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