Powerful VA-SJ takes down Windham, 93-56

CANTON – With 1:53 remaining in the fourth quarter during Windham’s 93-56 regional semifinal loss to Villa Angela-St. Joseph at Canton Memorial Field House, Bomber coach Marty Hill made sure to pull off Matt Knight and embraced him a hug.

Starting as a water boy in 2006 during Windham’s state final four run and ending as a star on the varsity team, the senior point guard was stepping off the court for the last time as a Bomber.

“I’ll never forget those moments,” Knight said. “Those are some of the best times of my life, these last seven years from when I was a ball boy to where I am now. It didn’t end the way I’d like it to, but it’s been fun.”

Well, his last game was memorable but for the wrong reasons.

The Bombers (23-4) knew going into the game that they had a serious height disadvantage against VA-SJ (22-4), but they couldn’t find a way to get past it.

The Vikings finished the game with a 2-to-1 rebounding ratio over Windham, and made it difficult for the Bombers to create any points in the paint. Even on the fast break when Windham beat VA-SJ down the floor, the Vikings’ height played a role.

“The problem is when you get down against them, you got 6-foot-9 waiting for you at the basket,” Hill said. “It’s hard to finish with a layup. You end up finishing with a 10-footer, and that’s not as high as a percentage (shot).”

Not only did the Vikings have a height advantage, but their big men could shoot.

VA-SJ shot 37 of 55 from the field in the game and peppered those shots from all over the court, including a few from the top of the key. Once they built a 20-plus point lead, the Vikings started showing their athleticism, dunking and throwing up alley-oops to teammates.

“We knew they were athletic, but man, their shooting was out of sight,” Hill said. “They had guys off the bench who could shoot.”

As difficult as the game was for Windham fans, the Bombers had one bright spot in Parker Rickey.

The sophomore came out firing in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his team-high 21 points in the final 8 minutes. Rickey chuck up and made a couple of 3s from well beyond the arc.

“He’s a heck of a player – one of the best up-and-coming players around,” Knight said of Rickey. “He’s a real good athlete, and he’s going to be a good leader. (The program) is in good hands now.”

After the game, Knight, who finished with 11 points, had no qualms about how far VA-SJ will go in the tournament.

“For Division IV, I’ve never seen anything like that,” Knight said. “Even Berlin Hiland these past couple of years hasn’t been like that. They were so much more athletic.

“They will be the next state champion.”