CANTON - Youngstown Christian coach Dolph Carroll didn't need long to realize the Division IV regional final against Villa Angela-St. Joseph at the Canton Memorial Field House was going to be a rough game for his team.
In fact, it took one play.
After winning the tip, VA-SJ point guard Duane Gibson Jr. lobbed a backdoor pass to Demonte Flannigan for an alley-oop.
"We got out of whack," Carroll said. "We were expecting something. We just didn't get the switch on the backdoor on the lob. I knew we were in for a long night."
That play set the tone for the game, as the Vikings led from start to finish to take a Division IV regional crown, 86-50.
Youngstown Christian (16-9) managed to keep it close in the first quarter, pulling within 11-8 with 3:15 remaining in the first quarter.
The Vikings (23-4) never let the Eagles come any closer. VA-SJ went on a 34-10 run over the final 11 minutes of the half to put the game to bed before the break. The Vikings, who advanced to next week's state final four, made their mark by forcing nine turnovers over that span and holding the Eagles to a 2-of-11 performance in the second quarter.
"The only thing I was disappointed about was we just got away from what we were really trying to do tonight. Once the wheels came undone, it was, "Katie bar the door, and here we go.'"
The rout was on from there, as the Vikings extended the lead out to 49 points with 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Youngstown Christian senior Nick Gonda said that although they expected issues with the Vikings athletic ability, the Eagles couldn't prepare for it.
"At practice, we just can't simulate their height and speed," Gonda said. "So, it's kind of hard, but we never gave up."
Despite the tough loss, Carroll said the team should be proud of what it accomplished.
The Eagles started out the season 7-8, but after a 58-49 win at Springfield on Feb. 12, they didn't drop another one until the regional final.
"I knew they had the potential to be a great team," Carroll said. "I kept telling them, 'You're the greatest 7-8 team I've ever had' - not because we were great basketball players, but because they had great heart and kept working hard."
To go with the team's improbable run, the Eagles also made history.
When the basketball team made the regional final, it marked the first time that both the football and basketball teams for Youngstown Christian reached that far in the state tournament. The football team lost to Mogadore in the Division IV regional final at Ravenna High School on Nov. 16, 42-20.
Following that game, Gonda, who played both sports, didn't think that the basketball team would make a similar run in the basketball postseason.
"I didn't, to be honest," Gonda said. "But we worked really hard, and we earned this. Nobody else believed that we would have gotten this far in the season."