It didn’t take Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce long to recount how many times prior to playing Trotwood-Madison this season the Irish had allowed 100 points.
“Never,” he said during a state-wide media conference call about this week’s boys high school basketball state final fours at Columbus.
“We regrouped and started coming together until we met Trotwood-Madison, which gave me the worst beating of my coaching career. After that game our guys recognized what’s at stake.”
Trotwood lit up Ohio Twitter feeds that night, landing an uncharacteristic 100-61 blowout on Jan. 14 to the school that LeBron James made famous.
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Trotwood (26-2) and Akron SVSM (23-5) will play again in a Division II state semifinal at 2 p.m. Thursday at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center. Wauseon (26-1) plays Columbus Eastmoor Academy (22-6) at 10:45 a.m. in Thursday’s D-II opener. The winners return to decide the state championship at 10:45 a.m. on Saturday.
Reflecting on that lopsided beating hogged most of the time Joyce and Trotwood coach Rocky Rockhold spent addressing their teams, and for triple-digit reasons. It’s a given that won’t happen again with so much at stake. Besides, instead of Trotwood’s relatively new gymnasium, the teams will be anchored at the Schott, or as Rockhold said, “this is almost a home court for (Akron SVSM) so we’re at the disadvantage this time.”
Here’s why: The Irish will be playing in their 14th state final four, including five of the last six seasons. They own six state titles, spanning from 1984 to their most recent in 2011. In contrast, Trotwood is making just its third trip to a final four. The Rams were the D-I state runner-up in 2006 and were leveled by Upper Arlington in a 2014 D-I semi.
But then there’s that previous blowout factor.
“It was definitely a wakeup call,” Joyce said. “Sometimes losing can be a good thing. It was definitely a humbling experience and gave our guys motivation to be better.”
The Irish did just that, losing only to state power and D-III final four qualifier Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph in the final seconds. St. V also owns two-point defeats of Lakewood St. Edward and Massillon Jackson, both of which made the D-I final four.
Trotwood landed another shot that rocked social media last Saturday, leveling Dunbar in a regional final, 83-54.
Rockhold expects to take St. V’s best shot in the rematch.
“That was a long time ago,” Rockhold said of the initial derailing. “I’m certain St. V and Trotwood are different teams than they were then. There’s no doubt that coach Joyce is as good or better than anybody at what he does. He’ll have his team ready.”
• All four of Saturday’s state title games will be shown live on Spectrum Sports, formerly Time Warner Cable. In Southwest Ohio, that’s cable channels 1311 (HD), 311 and 99.
Trotwood-Madison vs. Akron SVSM, 2 p.m.
Where: OSU’s Schottenstein Center
What: D-II boys state semifinal