GIRARD, Ohio (WKBN) – Twenty-five years ago today, Girard won the most improbable of high school basketball championships. The Hoosiers-like run through March of 1993 ended with a title.
Bob Krizancic had never before seen the picture of the ’93 team hanging outside the gym.
“Yeah, this gives me kind of like, chills. This is pretty cool,” he said.
Krizancic was the head coach of Girard’s 1993 State Championship basketball team, which was never supposed to win it all.An Unlikely Victory
“I would have bet everything I had that we wouldn’t win,” he said.
But win they did. Girard was not even seeded in the district tournament, but won its first two games before beating Canfield in double overtime — thanks to Nick D’Eramo.
“That’s kind of the game that’s near and dear to my heart because that’s the one I hit the winning shot,” D’Eramo said.
The Canfield game — won on a Thursday — also left center Kris Kelly with a badly sprained ankle. The district finals were Saturday.
“He’s not going to be ready in two days,” Krizancic said.
But a snowstorm canceled the Saturday game.
“They reschedule the game for Monday, so that gives Kris two more days,” Krizancic said.
Kelly plays when Girard beats Ursuline for the district championship.
“The further we got, I don’t know if it was ignorance, but maybe we just didn’t know,” Kelly said.
The best player was guard Philip Huyler, who arrived the year before from the Bahamas.
“We actually had to go to court and that was how we were able to get the opportunity,” he said.
Huyler had 25 points in a regional semis win over Twinsburg and 29 in the finals as Girard beat Cleveland Villa Angela St. Joseph. But Huyler said it was Coach Krizancic’s young son, Cole, that was the big factor.
“We would rub Cole’s hair because we thought that was our good luck charm.”
“And I believe Cole was 16-0,” Krizancic said.
The state semis was a nine-point win over Kettering Alter. Then onto the finals against Columbus Whitehall-Yearling and its future NBA player, Samaki Walker.
Walker had 24, but Huyler had 34 and Girard beat Whitehall-Yearling 64-57 to win the 1993 Ohio Division II State Basketball Championship.
“I’m in the locker room, we just win the state title and all my players are crying,” Krizancic said. “And Kris Kelly goes, ‘Coach, we’re not going to practice tomorrow.'”
“We’re coming down Main Street and the bus literally had to stop because the streets were filled with people,” D’Eramo recalled of the parade.
“Everybody became their best player at the right time of the year,” Krizancic said.Where Are They Now?
The championship banner hangs in Girard’s gym, reminding people of the miracle run of 1993. The championship trophy is in a case. The last time Krizancic saw it was when his team hoisted it high in Columbus.
Within a month after Girard winning the title, Krizancic accepted the job as head basketball coach at Mentor High School — a suburb of Cleveland.
“But my wife, at the time, was a flight attendant and we were trying to get closer to Pittsburgh or Cleveland,” he said.
Krizancic just finished his 25th season at Mentor, where he won a second state championship in 2013. His 611 career wins is 12th all-time in Ohio high school basketball history.
“Because of the experience in Ohio, I loved America,” said Huyler, who was the state tournament MVP.
He was later two-time MVP on his college team.
“I actually got a scholarship to Florida Atlantic University because of that opportunity of winning a state championship,” Huyler said.
He now runs his own financial firm in south Florida.
“I moved down to Columbus and I live in Dublin right now,” said D’Eramo, who was the player with the rec specs.
He later had surgery and no longer wears glasses. D’Eramo is also in finance — a portfolio manager for JP Morgan.
“You know, we’re a group of brothers and a lot of us still keep in contact,” said Kelly, who went on to play football at Rhode Island.
Kelly now works in insurance in New Jersey. He recalled the championship game against Columbus Whitehall-Yearling and being told ‘no’ after asking for help in guarding future pro Samaki Walker.
“When the chips are down and you’re really faced with some adversity, dig deep and good things will happen,” Brad Root said.
Root was the player sitting on the rim after the regional championship. He now lives in Elkhart, Indiana and is part owner of a company that leases MRI and CAT scan machines.
Every year in March, he remembers.
“To let us think about how great things were and how together of a team we were and close-knit,” Root said.
“It’s a great feeling to win a state championship,” said Keith Swan, who was the fifth starter.
He’s now an engineer at Fiat-Chrysler near Detroit.
Alrashan Clardy, the sixth man, still lives in Girard and works with his family’s siding company.
Assistant Coach Bryan O’Hara also still lives in Girard. He would later coach the team and now works for the Trumbull County Educational Service Center.
Cole Krizancic, the coach’s young son who brought the team good luck, would play for his father and now works in downtown Cleveland.