LAKEWOOD, Ohio — The St. Edward Eagles came into Saturday night’s Division I Lakewood District final basketball game with quality experience, boasting eight seniors on their roster.
The Rams had the edge in athleticism, but once the Eagles settled in, they controlled the tempo of the game. St. Edward defeated Rhodes, 59-39, at Lakewood High School, and the gym was so packed that it was standing room only.
With the win, the Eagles have now made it to the regionals for four straight seasons.
The Eagles didn’t make many perimeter shots, with their only three coming from senior Montorie Foster. St. Edward’s attack was mostly led by Devontae Blanton and Grant Huffman, two of the team’s top seniors. Blanton scored a game-high 22 points, forcing himself inside and using his 6-foot-6 frame for easy buckets.
“They had a couple young guys on me, and whenever I saw somebody who I knew I was stronger than, I just tried to impose my will and get to the basket,” Blanton said.
Huffman finished with 17 points and shot 7-of-10 from the free-throw line. Foster and senior Zach Chatmon were solid scoring options as well, with Foster putting up nine points and Chatmon scoring six.
With their seniors leading the way, the Eagles showed how balanced their offense is.
“I thought we played like seniors,” Eagles coach Eric Flannery said. “Our guys made the right decisions. They did a good job of not forcing anything. So I was really proud of that.”
The Eagles were up 23-16 at halftime, and though Rhodes struggled to score, the Eagles didn’t regularly have the best looks, either. Huffman, Chatmon and Blanton were the only Eagles players to score in the first half, with Blanton scoring 10 of the team’s first-half points.
With their athleticism and quickness, the Rams caused the Eagles to have some hiccups offensively.
“I thought they did a good job of pressuring the ball,” Flannery said. “Keeping us a little off balance, not getting into our stuff. And then offensively, they did a good job of really trying to attack us and get to the free throw line.”
Deangelo Williams led the Rams in scoring with 12 points, and Marlon Landingham scored 10 points. Landingham also made both of the Rams’ two 3-pointers. The Eagles controlled the pace throughout the second half, outscoring Rhodes, 36-23.
Following the game, seniors like Blanton and Huffman helped cut down the net. As St. Edward prepares for another regional appearance, it has its first state championship since 2014 in its sights.
“You got three guys that have been here for four years, and a tremendous amount of seniors that have been kind of a nucleus of this program for a few years now,” Flannery said. “Just to kind of rely on them and that experience has been really good to this point.
“We know their goal is to win a state championship. I think all of them will feel disappointed if they don’t do that. But I just keep trying to make sure that they focus on the journey, make sure they focus on game to game and just keep locked in.”