La Salle’s Kegan Hudson battles Springfield’s Dae’Shawn Jackson for a loose ball during the Lancers’ 54-41 loss in a Division I district final at University of Dayton Arena.
DAYTON – At a bulky 6-feet-9 inches, Springfield junior Darius Harper is a load.
He was too much for La Salle to handle on Saturday.
Harper scored a game-high 19 points, punctuating his day with a thunderous breakaway dunk with 20 seconds left in the game, as the Wildcats pulled away for a 54-41 win over the Lancers in a Division I district championship game at University of Dayton Arena.
Harper also led both teams with eight rebounds as Springfield, which plays in the Greater Western Ohio Conference, advanced to meet the winner of Saturday’s game between Moeller, the No. 6 team in the Enquirer’s Division I coaches’ poll, and top-ranked Wilmington, the No. 3 team in the Associated Press Division I statewide poll, in a regional semifinal scheduled for Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
Harper wasn’t Springfield’s only weapon, pointed out La Salle coach Dan Fleming, whose team was trying to win a second consecutive district championship.
“He is a load,” Fleming said. “He hasn’t had a lot of games like that. He got a couple off of loose balls early, but we didn’t think that was as much of a key as their guard play. We didn’t stay in front of them as much as we needed to.”
Sophomore guard Danny Davis scored 12 points and and senior guard Dae’Shawn Johnson added 11 with three assists for Springfield (19-7), which has won eight consecutive games.
Sophomore guard C.J. Fleming and junior guard Jeremy Larkin each scored 11 points for La Salle (20-6), the Enquirer’s No. 4 team.
Springfield outrebounded the Lancers, 39-31, helping the Wildcats enjoy advantages of 32-18 on points in the paint and 13-4 on second-chance points.
The Wildcats took control with a 7-0 run that started with a Davis layup and ended with them leading, 40-33, with 2:41 left in the game. Sophomore Tre Crigler and Fleming hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to one point, but Springfield sank all four free throws on one possession – two resulting from a technical foul on C.J. Fleming – and the Wildcats ended the game on a 12-2 run.
In the second of four Division I district championship games at the arena, sophomore guard Da’Meak Brandon scored at the buzzer to give La Salle its first lead, 10-9, at the end of the first quarter, but the Wildcats opened the second quarter with a 9-0 run that included a dunk and a putback by Harper. The Lancers could manage only five points in the quarter and trailed at halftime, 22-15.
Harper, who earned honorable mention on the Southwest district Division I team finished the half with 10 points and six rebounds.
“They got to way too many 50-50 balls in the first half,” Fleming said of the Wildcats. “We did a better job in the second half, but it got away from us at the end.”
La Salle got back into the game with an 8-1 run to open the second half and took leads of 28-26 and 30-28 before Dae’Shawn Jackson hit a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 31-30 lead going into the fourth quarter.
La Salle (20-6) – Brandon 1 0 2, Larkin 5 1 11, Watson 3 0 6, Fleming 3 4 11, Crigler 1 0 3, Wenning 1 0 3, McNally 2 0 5. Totals: 16 5 41.
Springfield (19-7) – Alexander 2 4 8, Davis 4 3 12, Jackson 3 4 11, Harper 8 3 19, Taylor 1 2 4. Totals: 18 16 54.
Halftime: Springfield, 22-15. 3-pointers: L 4 (Fleming, Crigler, Wenning, McNally), S 2 (Davis, Jackson).