By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CANTON -- Ursuline High controlled the tempo for most of the first half of Wednesday's Division III boys regional semifinal game at the Canton Fieldhouse.
But the second half belonged to Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, who seized control right after Ursuline junior D'Aundray Brown took a seat with his fourth personal foul with 5 minutes, 9 seconds to go in the third quarter.
The Vikings (19-6) overcame a sloppy first half to post a 57-48 victory that ended Ursuline's season at 15-9.
"We had a great game plan together," Ursuline coach Keith Gunther said of the first half. "We had David Lighty out of the ball game -- he only had six points for the half.
"The second half was tough," Gunther said. "In the halfcourt matchup that we were expecting to play the whole game, [they] had a kid who knocked three or four big shots that we weren't expecting. That was a major, major difference in the ball game."
Gunther was referring to Vikings sophomore Nate Barnes, who caught fire in the third quarter by hitting three outside shots during a 13-5 run.
"We were jittery in the first half and we didn't get after it like we wanted," VA-SJ coach Dave Wojciechowski said. "We wanted to get the tempo in our favor. We played to their tempo in the first half.
"In the second half, we controlled the boards a little better and got some runouts and that got us going."
Near the end of the second quarter, Jerome Jones' putback basket extended the Irish's lead to 24-21. But Ashen Ward's basket and Lighty's free throw with no time remaining sent the teams to the locker rooms with a 24-24 tie.
The second half began in Ursuline's favor when senior Lance Randall connected for his third 3-pointer of the game.
Moments later, Brown was on the bench and the Irish struggled to keep the ball, turning it over eight times in the third quarter.
With a 3-pointer, Barnes tied the game, then put the Vikings ahead for good with a jump shot from near the top of the key.
After Lighty made a foul shot, Barnes scored again for a 32-27 lead.
Brown returned with 2:41 to go in the third and scored on a jump shot. But the rest of the frame went to the Vikings as Jim McLeod scored a basket, the Irish gave the ball away and the Vikings held it for almost a minute.
To compound Irish frustrations, Lighty took the ball with time running down and scored a 3-pointer from at least 25 feet away for a 37-29 lead.
"We were really keying on Dave Lighty," Gunther said. "We felt if Lighty didn't get more than 20, we'd have a chance."
Lighty and Barnes each scored 17 points to lead the Vikings, who will play Bedford St. Peter Chanel (18-6) Saturday for a state berth. The Firebirds advanced by overcoming a 40-23 deficit to defeat West Salem Northwestern, 77-72.
Randall and Brown led the Irish with 14 points apiece while Jones had 12.
Considering injuries that Jones and Brown suffered earlier in the season, Gunther, who completed his third year as Ursuline's coach, said his team is happy with the regional trip "but we're not satisfied."
Gunther said he told his underclassmen that their goal for 2007 is to win a regional championship.
"Our kids battled all year long," Gunther said. "Being down, being injured, they pushed through and won a district title. And they came out here and gave a great effort."
Jones will play for the University of Toledo. Gunther said senior Kyle Muir is considering playing for Division II Ashland and Randall is weighing Div. II offers, as well as playing another year at a prep school.