No brackets were busted on Saturday evening in Ohio City.
The Saint Ignatius varsity basketball team took care of its business, rolling past the Brunswick Blue Devils, 76-59.
Entering the Lakewood District Tournament, some local media predicted that Brunswick may be a bracket buster. Well, that prediction was proven wrong on Saturday.
"It feels good," said head coach Cam Joyce. "I was anxious, the guys were anxious. It was a long week of practice. We just wanted to play, we were excited. Hopefully this is the first of many. It feels good."
The Wildcats played hard and smart from the opening tipoff. Facing off against a Brunswick team with plenty of sharpshooters, the Basketball Cats focused on forcing turnovers and making easy buckets.
Jon Effertz played a large role in firing the Wildcats out to a hot start. The sophomore had the hot hand in the early goings, draining a triple, a jumper, and two free throws. Tommy Spear, Danny Nunez, and Emmett Hanna all hit deuces and Griffin Hanna converted a pair of shots from the charity stripe in the first. The Wildcats stormed out to a 14-5 advantage after one.
Brunswick continued to scuffle with turnovers in the second quarter. The Wildcats played with pace, as the great John Wooden would say, "Be quick, but don't hurry." Chase Toppin came alive with this strategy, burying a 3-pointer and nailing a short shot. He also found open players, including CJ Yarian. The 6'8 sophomore also scored on a feed from Henry Raynor. Spear found the scoresheet, as well, converting a beautiful trey.
The Wildcats got 4 free points thanks to two technical fouls on Brunswick. Effertz looked smooth in swishing all four.
The hosts headed into the break well in control, cruising with a 32-16 lead. Defense played a major part in the strong opening half.
"We played really good defense in the first half," said Joyce. "In the second half, we slipped a little bit, but they made some tough shots. But great effort all the way around. Our defense was the reason why we won – we made it tough on their shooters. That was the whole goal."
The game morphed into the Jon Effertz Show in the third quarter. The Blue Devils scored 22 points, as they began to exploit openings in the Saint Ignatius defense, but Effertz stole the show. The 6'0" guard simply could not be stopped. The star sophomore drained four 3-pointers in the third stanza, bringing the Saint Ignatius crowd to its feet.
"When we got the larger lead, they had to change the way they played," said Coach Cam. "In the first quarter, they played a lot of zone. Then they had to pressure because they needed to get the ball back. They tried to speed us up, and because of that, we got in the lane and Jon was open. When he sees one or two go in, he can heat up really fast. He's a really good shooter, especially when he sees the ball go through the net a couple times. I always tell guys to relocate, and to make yourself available. He did a good job of moving when guys were penetrating."
Raynor also came alive for the blue and gold. The junior banged in 9 points in the third quarter, as Brunswick had no answer for him. Raynor looked unstoppable in getting to the rim.
Meanwhile, Nunez and Toppin continued to play well, each finding the bottom of the net once. The Wildcats rolled into the fourth with a commanding 58-38 lead.
The Blue Devils would not quit in the final quarter, but the Wildcats showed no signs of relenting. Nunez helped to pad the lead with a pair of triples. Toppin continued to play the distributor with several assists, and he even scored a layup of his own.
Raynor continued his onslaught on the scoreboard in the final frame. The big man got a layup and knocked down four free throws. He finished with 15 points and 6 rebounds. CJ Yarian and Nick Lamirand also added late buckets.
The Wildcats walked away with a 76-59 victory, a fitting final game in Sullivan Gym for the Saint Ignatius seniors. Five of the six seniors got on the stat sheet – Nunez clipped 11 points and 2 assists, Toppin tallied 9 points and a team-best 5 assists, Tommy Spear tabbed 5 points and 2 rebounds, Griffin Hanna earned 2 points and 3 rebounds, and Caleb Blake recorded 2 points and 2 assists. A big thank you to Gianluca DiGiacomo for his help with stats with the SIBN tonight.
Next up for the Wildcats is the District Semifinal at Lakewood High School on Thursday. Rhodes will await Saint Ignatius after barely squeaking by Parma in overtime on Saturday. Joyce's squad will not need any added motivation, as the Cats fell at home to the Rams just a couple weeks ago.
"Those guys are a good team. We just need to be ready for them this time," said Coach Cam. "I'm looking forward to it."