The Lutheran High School East boys’ basketball team returned to Cleveland Heights on Sunday, March 21 as State Champions for the 2nd time in 5 years and 3rd time in 16 years.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) State Final Four Tournament, held in Dayton at the UD Arena, took place Friday, March 19, 2021 through Sunday, March 21, 2021.
The Falcons travelled to Dayton and played Friday evening in the Division III semi-final game against the Ottawa-Glandorf Titans from Glandorf, Ohio. Their 58-52 victory secured them a spot in the state championship game on Sunday.
Sunday’s 2:00 PM matchup against the Worthington Christian School Warriors was a hard-fought battle that ended in a 61-56 victory for the Falcons and a Division III state championship title.
Lutheran East Athletic Director Anthony Jones stated, “These young men have sacrificed so much to be in this position. The long hours of the school day followed by the countless hours of practice in the gym and time spent in the weight room. Also factor in the media attention they received, combined with the expectation to win! These guys earned the right to be called State Champions. To actually win a state championship, and to and to win it with this group of young men, makes the experience so much more sweet!”
Jones attributes much of the program’s enduring success to the hard work and dedication of his longtime best friend and colleague Sam Liggins, Lutheran East Class of 2005 and the Falcons’ Head Coach. About Coach Liggins, Jones states, “His love for Lutheran East and his passion for the game of basketball is undeniable. He has taken this program to new heights that were once considered unimaginable.”
Coach Liggins is humbled and proud by the experience the team shared during the past weekend and the past year as a whole. Liggins says, “"Winning a state championship felt amazing in 2005 when I was a senior at Lutheran East...but to see a state title victory through the eyes of this group of young men was an unbelievable experience. The determination and grit shown by this team was put to the test over the past year, and words can't express how proud I am that they stuck together no matter what and battled their way to the top. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to lead this program."
Lutheran East’s most recent state title was in 2017, with another state championship secured in 2005. Since Jones and Liggins have been at the helm of the Falcon boys’ basketball program, the team has earned six district championships, four regional championships, and two state titles.
The victory was made even more special due to the fact that the 2020 playoff season, during which the Falcons were making strides toward the State Final Four, was abruptly cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the onset of the 2020-2021 basketball season, and throughout the playoffs, COVID-19 protocols were still in place. Lutheran East administration says that the school community is so proud of its Falcon student-athletes who, in the face of the adversity and irregularity of the past year, were able to triumph and persevere to earn a championship.
Photo Credits: Vincent Rush Photography