'Put on for the city': Canton natives Sencire Harris, Ramar Pryor lead STVM to regional title

Ramar Pryor, 20, Clinton Thomas III, 3, and Ethan Connery, 5, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary celebrate their victory over Louisville in the DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Ramar Pryor, 20, Clinton Thomas III, 3, and Ethan Connery, 5, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary celebrate their victory over Louisville in the DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.

CANTON — The regional championship stage looked awfully comfortable for the St. Vincent-St. Mary boys basketball team on Saturday.

Of course, for the Irish’s two senior stars, this specific stage felt like a home game.

Led by Canton natives Sencire Harris and Ramar Pryor, the defending-state champion Irish rolled over Louisville 61-21 in a Division II regional final at Memorial Civic Center.

Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary pose for a team photo after their victory over Louisville in the DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary pose for a team photo after their victory over Louisville in the DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Sencire Harris, 24, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary goes to the basket while being guarded by Beau Siegfried, 3, of Louisville during their DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Sencire Harris, 24, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary goes to the basket while being guarded by Beau Siegfried, 3, of Louisville during their DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.

“We definitely had to put on for the city,” Harris said after leading St. V-M, an Akron powerhouse to its sixth regional championship in seven years. The only missing year was 2020 when the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 as the Irish readied for a regional semifinal.

The 6-foot-5 Harris, a University of Illinois recruit who played his freshman season of high school ball at Hoover in North Canton, totaled 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. The 6-3 Pryor, a Cleveland State recruit who played his freshman season at GlenOak, added 14 points, five rebounds and two steals.

More Northeast Ohio Basketball: St. Edward tops Hoban in Division I boys basketball regional final at Copley

The Irish (23-4) won their first four tournament games by an average of 40.0 points entering Saturday. Clearly, St. V-M wasn't taking its foot off the gas pedal against Louisville (20-7).

“We can’t really look over any team,” Pryor said. “We have to go with that mindset that they can beat us. So we have to stay strong and keep working in the gym and at practice.”

Hayden Nigro, 24, of Louisville goes to the basket while being guarded by Ramar Pryor, 20, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary during their DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Hayden Nigro, 24, of Louisville goes to the basket while being guarded by Ramar Pryor, 20, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary during their DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.

Louisville saw St. Vincent-St. Mary playing 'on all cylinders'

A big, loud crowd in blue and white showed up for Louisville, which was playing in the regionals for the second time in school history and in a regional championship for the first time.

The Leopards’ historic run simply ran into a buzzsaw, a team capable of competing for a Division I state title.

The Irish jumped out to leads of 9-0 and 19-3 in the first quarter, with their defensive pressure overwhelming Louisville. If they weren’t turning over the Leopards, they were speeding them up to a point of being out of control.

“Louisville has a good team, but we were just on all cylinders today,” St. V-M head coach Dru Joyce said. “There was just no way we were going to let this opportunity slip by. The seniors have worked so hard to get us to this point.”

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Ramar Pryor, right, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary takes a shot while being guarded by Tyler Boldon, left, of Louisville during their DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Ramar Pryor, right, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary takes a shot while being guarded by Tyler Boldon, left, of Louisville during their DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.

Louisville committed 23 of its 24 turnovers through the first three quarters. The Irish totaled 18 steals on the day, led by six from junior wing Lance Hayes and five from senior guard Ethan Connery.

“We spend a lot of time talking about playing at the pace we want to play, and they don’t let you play at the pace you want to play,” Louisville head coach Tom Siegfried said. “What I took away is they are way more fundamentally sound defensively than I expected. They’re very athletic, obviously, but they do a lot of things right. They don’t over-gamble. The do things very, very technical. That’s coaching, and I give Coach Joyce and his staff a lot of credit for teaching the right things.”

St. Vincent-St. Mary heads back to OHSAA state basketball tournament

Connery scored nine points off the Irish bench. Junior guard Kevin Hamilton had four assists for St. V-M, which will face Kettering Alter in Friday’s 5:15 p.m. state semifinal at the University of Dayton.

Joyce lauded the leadership of Harris and Pryor for a St. V-M team that basically hasn’t skipped a beat after graduating last year’s Ohio Mr. Basketball, Malaki Branham.

“It’s their team now,” Joyce said. “I’m very proud of who they are, how they’ve come about. They recognized we lost a lot with that group of seniors, led by Malaki. It was their turn. They were waiting for their turn. We’ve been able to have guys buy in to, hey, now it’s your legacy. It’s your turn to lead. It’s your turn to write a chapter in this ongoing story.”

That story is up to 18 regional championships, 15 of them since 2000. The Irish will vie for their 10th state championship next weekend in Dayton.

“This feels great,” Harris said. “I’ve got to bring one home again, back-to-back. We’re really supposed to have three straight, but COVID.”

More: 'Go make history': Aljancic, Nigro lead Louisville boys basketball to win in OHSAA regionals

More: The wait is over: Louisville downs Howland for first boys basketball district championship in 29 years

Tyler Boldon, left, Will Aljancic, hidden rear, and Zack Seaman, 0, of Louisville accept the runner-up trophy after being defeated by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Tyler Boldon, left, Will Aljancic, hidden rear, and Zack Seaman, 0, of Louisville accept the runner-up trophy after being defeated by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Will Aljancic, 1, of Louisville goes to the basket while being guarded by Darius Stratford, 35, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary during their DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Will Aljancic, 1, of Louisville goes to the basket while being guarded by Darius Stratford, 35, of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary during their DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.

'Amazing' ride ends for Louisville

Junior Will Aljancic led Louisville with seven points and finishes with a single-season school record of 572 points. Sophomore Hayden Nigro added six points and five rebounds for a Leopards team that graduates only one starter in Tyler Boldon.

“The ride has been amazing,” Siegfried said. “I’m really proud of these young men and the grit and determination that they showed. This was the greatest season in Louisville basketball history. I couldn’t be more proud. One night does not define a season.”

The Leopards say goodbye to Boldon and fellow seniors Zack Seaman, AJ Lingenhoel and Sabar LeMoine. Boldon played in two district championship games in three years and led this Louisville team to the program’s first district title since 1993.

“Tyler definitely was our alpha dog,” Siegfried said. “He was the basketball-only leader that came all the way through, kind of guided us and took over when he needed to in this tournament run.”

Reach Josh at josh.weir@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @jweirREP

Louisville poses for a team photo after being defeated by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
Louisville poses for a team photo after being defeated by Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the DII regional final at the Canton Memorial Civic Center on Saturday, March 12, 2022.

How Louisville and St. Vincent-St. Mary got here?

Miss any of our coverage of the Leopards and Irish? Here's a look at some of what we've written on the two programs, of late:

Louisville boys basketball wins in OT: 'Go make history': Aljancic, Nigro lead Louisville boys basketball to win in OHSAA regionals

STVM heads to another Elite 8: St. Vincent-St. Mary tops Youngstown Chaney, heads to boys basketball regional final

Breaking down Canton Civic Center Regional: Canton Division II boys basketball regional preview: Chaney vs. St. V-M; Louisville vs. Glenville

Louisville boys basketball wins district title: The wait is over: Louisville downs Howland for first boys basketball district championship in 29 years

STVM boys basketball wins district title: No luck of the Irish needed: STVM rolls past Buckeye for Division II district title

STVM vs Mentor Lake Catholic: St. Vincent-St. Mary boys basketball starts slow, pulls away in district semifinal

Louisville vs. Canton South: 'Environment in here was insane,' Louisville basketball star says after thriller vs. Canton South

This article originally appeared on The Repository: Sencire Harris, Ramar Pryor and STVM too much for Louisville