Lakewood, Ohio - The JV 'Cats, who saw their seven-game winning streak snapped, were defeated by 16 points after the Eagles' Junior Varsity closed the game with an impressive run. St. Edward's Varsity, behind a second-half performance that saw the Eagles produce key stretches every time the 'Cats got close, turned away Saint Ignatius, 85-67.
In what was a matchup of the seven-county area's second (St. Edward)- and 11th-ranked Varsity teams, the Eagles improved to 16-3, remained unbeaten at home this season and undefeated versus area teams and programs from Northeast Ohio. St. Edward won the regular-season Varsity series with the Wildcats, 2-0. Saint Ignatius is now 10-6.
This corner has said all winter that, just like last year, there will be a third Varsity meeting between the longtime West Side rivals this season. And I am sticking with my prediction. That third encounter will take place at the OHSAA Division I Strongsville District.
Last year, St. Edward, after losing two overtime thrillers to Saint Ignatius during the regular season, defeated the Wildcats in the Strongsville District Championship Game.
Yours in high school sports will have a story on the 2018 seedings and pairings at Strongsville once the OHSAA releases them on Sunday.
HERE IS A CORNER'S VIEW OF ANOTHER CHAPTER IN WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST STORIED RIVALRIES IN THE NATION.
The night began in front of a packed house at St. Edward's Eagles Nest with a spirited Junior Varsity encounter.
After Saint Ignatius' Jayvees cut the deficit to five points, the Eagles' Junior Varsity closed out the game with an 11-0 run and a 57-41 victory.
Under the direction of veteran Head Coach Pete Campbell, a 1988 graduate of St. Edward, the Eagles' Jayvees also now stand at 16-3, as they ended up splitting their traditional two-game JV series with the Wildcats. The JV 'Cats defeated St. Edward, 59-52, on January 20th in Father Sullivan Gymnasium.
Saint Ignatius, because of illness that hit the team this week, was without one of its key Junior Varsity performers at both ends of the floor, sophomore forward Erik Daugenti. The JV 'Cats will take a record of 14-2 into Saturday's encounter with the JV program from Beachwood. The opening tip in Father Sullivan Gymnasium will be 5:30 PM and will be followed by the 7 PM Varsity matchup with the Bison from Beachwood. Please note that Saturday will be both Senior Night and Safety Forces Recognition Night.
"We were without 10 of our 14 players for most of the week because of illness," said Wildcats veteran Assistant Junior Varsity Coach Brian McLaughlin '94. One of those 10, tough and talented sophomore post Michael McNamara, did play in the first half at St. Edward on Friday night, but was unable to go in the second half.
Saint Ignatius' Jayvees led, 14-10, at the midway point of the second quarter and the score was knotted 16 after Wildcats gifted forward/guard Griffin Hanna scored on a layup.
St. Edward, behind a 3-pointer from guard/forward Brady Foutz and a layup courtesy of guard Logan Nash, took a 21-18 lead into the halftime break.
The Eagles controlled most of the third quarter and were able to carry a 10-point lead into the final seven minutes.
Saint Ignatius would cut a 14-point deficit to five points in the late stages of the fourth quarter, but St. Edward responded with the decisive 11-0 run that was highlighted by a strong putback by 6-foot-5 forward Zachary Chatmon and baskets from guard Devin Hightower and Chatmon. The Eagles sealed the deal on four free throws.
Hightower finished with 14 points and St. Edward guard Brennan Rains contributed 10 points. Hanna led all JV scorers with 17 points and Wildcats guard Daniel Nunez had eight points, including two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
VARSITY GAME SEES ST. EDWARD BURY 11 3-POINTERS AND FINISH WITH FIVE PLAYERS IN DOUBLE FIGURES.
Most of the early stages of the Varsity Game were a punch and counter punch competition with neither team wanting to give an inch.
St. Edward, which led by four points after the first quarter, was able to create some distance thanks to the impressive long-range shooting of senior forward Patrick "P.J." Flannery, son of Eagles highly successful Head Coach Eric Flannery. Flannery had five 3-pointers on the night.
After a Flannery trey extended the Eagles' lead to 10 points, Saint Ignatius, fueled by the gutsy play of senior posts Dom DiNunzio and Aymin Bahhur, multiskilled senior guard/forward Josh Ozanne and savvy guards senior Neeko Melendez and sophomore Tevin Jackson, cut the deficit to 38-37 in the final minute of the first half. The highlight baskets were 3-pointers by Ozanne and Melendez, and a smooth driving one-hander from Jackson.
Like Flannery, Melendez would total five 3-pointers. Neeko had four treys in the first game versus St. Edward this season.
St. Edward, ranked 12th in the Associated Press Division I State Poll, rode a driving 1-hander off the glass by 6-6 sophomore forward Devontae Blanton, another triple from Flannery, the 3-point shooting of 6-8 senior forward Emmett Chambers and a three-point play from endless promise sophomore guard Montorie Foster in increasing a three-point lead at halftime to 11 points with 3 minutes and 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
After Melendez and Flannery exchanged deep treys, and Wildcats senior guard Jon Barnes buried two free throws, Flannery dialed long distance again.
Two free throws from Jackson cut Saint Ignatius' deficit to 10 points, but the Eagles, thanks to baskets from quick and athletic junior guard Demetrius Terry and 6-6 senior post William Henry, who scored off a Blanton assist, and two free throws by Chambers, took a 13-point lead into the final eight minutes.
The Wildcats of Hall of Fame Head Coach Brian Becker '77 were not about to go quietly into a cold Lakewood night.
Before St. Edward's faithful could blink, Chase Toppin, the other half of Saint Ignatius' sweet sophomore backcourt, sent home a 3-pointer and Melendez scored off a drive to the basket that sliced the deficit to eight points with plenty of time left.
However, as they did all night, the Eagles found the answer in the form of a Foster jumper, a 3-pointer by one of the top underclassmen in Northeast Ohio, sophomore guard Grant Huffman, and two Foster free throws.
The scoring of Jackson, Ozanne and Barnes kept the Wildcats hopes alive, but those wishes were quickly dampened by a 12-3 closing act that featured encore efforts by Blanton, Huffman, Terry and Foster. Terry had the St. Edward Student Body, which lends its support on the stage off Coach Jim Connors Court, in a frenzy when he slammed home a soaring monster dunk with 1:20 left.
Huffman led St. Edward's five double-digit scorers with 19 points, including two 3-pointers, Flannery had 17 points, Foster totaled 15 points, Blanton finished with 13 points and eight assists, and Terry had 11 points.
Melendez was at the top of the Wildcats' scoring column, as his 19 points shared game honors with Huffman. Neeko had a game-high 24 points in the first meeting with St. Edward this winter. Ozanne and Barnes totaled 13 and 11 points, respectively.
FROM COACH BECKER: "You win and lose games at different points and there was a huge swing where we miss a dunk and they get a run-out three. The momentum changed very quickly.
"St. Eds is a very good basketball team," Coach Becker continued. "As the scorebook says, when you get five guys in double digits, that's a solid team. They made plays when they had to. I thought we were better in terms of being more competitive than we were the first time around (a 12-point loss at Father Sullivan Gymnasium on Jan. 20th). But there are things we have to clean up, both offensively and defensively.
"The final score didn't indicate how close the game was, but you have to play 32 minutes and with the sickness we've had I thought the kids battled well."
Have a great weekend and we will see you at Sullivan Gymnasium later today for the Freshmen doubleheader at 2 PM and 4 PM, and the Junior Varsity and Varsity Games at 5:30 and 7 PM.