At the beginning of the season, Head Coach Cam Joyce's Wildcats was a freight train. In the first five games of the season, Ignatius played fiercely and their outstanding play kicked off their season with a 5-0 record. As some tough teams rolled around on the schedule, a four-game losing streak hung over the talented yet struggling squad. Under captain Henry Raynor's leadership, the Cats have battled their way back to a four-game hot spell and a solid chance of bringing back another five-game win streak.
On paper, the Wildcats were expected to come away victorious against The Villa Angela St. Joseph Vikings. However, the Wildcats had to travel to the historic Purple Palace of VASJ for this one. With multiple championships runs in the far and recent past, Ignatius was walking into their turf.
Villa Angela was led by senior guard Vasilios Capuozzo who is deadly from behind the arc and an issue in the paint with his crafty left-hand finishes. The size differential was heavily in the Wildcats' favor and they needed that advantage. With junior Jon Effertz out with a leg injury, Coach Cam was relying heavily on his bigs.
The starters were a bit different for the boys from Ohio City. Senior Alex Garcia strutted on to the hardwood with multiple solid games this season. Raynor's free throws started the game early for the Cats. After two long possessions for the home team, Samson Foster connected with a mid-range jumper. Multiple steals off of lazy passes for the freshman C.J. Little allowed him to do what he does best. Little blew past each Viking defender as he attacked inside for his first points on an and-one. Staying perfect, Henry got two more free throws to fall following a corner bucket for the Viking forward Devin Mills. An 8-5 lead for the Cats drove them ahead halfway through the quarter. Several offensive boards for VASJ gave them multiple fruitless attempts. After a minute-long possession, the senior guard Noah Clarke fought inside for his first points of the game and cut it to a one-point game with less than two minutes until the second quarter began. The 6'5 Anthony Ivey's layup lit a fire under senior defensive specialist Mike Mattimore. A long drought without a three finally ended with the second corner trifecta of the game. On the last possession, Capuozzo finished on a gentle putback right at the buzzer.
Starting off the quarter with a close 13-11 game, Mattimore dropped in his second three. With no hesitation, a full-court press broke out for Cam Joyce. A successful setup gave the speedster Timmy Ruddy a fast-break finish. Still looking to force a fast-paced offense, Ruddy made them pay with a second steal in less than 30 seconds. Pure efficiency put the Wildcats on an 8-0 run. Being the leader he is, Capuozzo ended the run with his first three of the night. The home-court continued to play in favor of the Vikings. Ivey's trey paired nicely with guard Maurice Jackson's three on back to back possessions. The Vikings' 9-5 run allowed them to battle back in a 25-20 game with 2 minutes remaining in the half. The cornerstone for Saint Ignatius so far was steals. Ruddy had two steals alone in the first half. Immediately after his fourth steal, the 6'10 C.J. Yarian received a nice pass and laid it in. Halftime came with a 27-20 lead.
Even with the comfort of a near double-digit lead, the Wildcats were playing sloppy. A handful of turnovers left no room for error in a destined to be the long second half.
The heavily defensive battle picked right back up in the second half. Raynor's post moves looked like poetry in motion with a pretty finish in the lower block. The Freshman Phenom answered an and-one and free throw with a splash from behind the arc. C.J. was locked in against the Vikings with a double-digit 10 point game so far. The three-point parade continued for the Wildcats after Ruddy was dared to shoot. His shot put the team on a 10-3 run and a 37-23 lead. The Vikings had no answer for Coach Joyce's players. A dime pass from Mr. Fourth Quarter A.J. Fletcher to Yarian added onto the dominating 3rd quarter. Just for good measure, Ruddy picked off his third pass of the game and finished inside for two. Finally snapping the run, Clarke's field goal gave VASJ 25 on the evening. Immediately after, Fletcher picked up the phone and answered with a trey ball. The 20 point lead wasn't good enough. Mattimore lasered in his third deep ball of the game. A dreadful quarter came to an end as the visitors led 50-27. The
After winning the third quarter 23-7, Villa Angela St. Joseph needed a miracle. Co-captain Will Yontek showed his versatility with a left-handed lay-in and a block on back to back plays. The fourth moved slowly for each team. Henry continued to assert his dominance with bucket after bucket. Garcia tacked two more on and what once was a 20 point lead quickly became a 30 point lead. Another one? BANG! Mattimore with his fourth three of the game. Mattimore has struggled all year from behind the arc and seeing him shoot this efficiently is a major bonus for a solid three-point shooting squad. Capuozzo slithered inside for a smooth finish with a 65-33 lead.
Stepping on the floor were two more JV superstars. Brandon Webster and St. Albert the Great graduate Matt Ellis each took the floor on the Varsity level. With a total of four freshmen getting minutes on Varsity, the future is bright for Lorain Avenue basketball.
With each team in the double bonus, junior Shondo Green worked his way in for two more free throws onto the Wildcat lead. Senior big man Nick Lamirand tacked on two points of the game and brought the game to a close.
With a 71-37 lead, the Wildcats were back on track for the challenges of mid-season basketball. Up next, Saint Ignatius will be back at home for two straight games. The battle of the Cats is set to take place on January 29th against the Benedictine Bengals. Be sure to tune in on the SIBN for that contest featuring a Senior Night celebration.