The seniors for the class of 2021 were nothing short of special. Their work on and off the court made a difference in the Saint Ignatius community, and they will not be forgotten. Not only were they excellent athletes who made a solid run in the playoffs last year, but they were members of Cam Joyce's first team as a Wildcat head coach. These players have put work and dedication into the team they all have been passionate about. Even though the five seniors are what everybody sees on the surface, the four senior team managers have played a major role in the Saint Ignatius Basketball program.
The five senior players and four managers are listed below:
Henry Raynor graduated from Lakewood Catholic Academy and is the Captain of the basketball team and a three-year letter winner. Henry was named third-team all-district. Outside of basketball, Henry finished with high honors and is part of the National Honors Society. Henry has his hopes set on improving individually and winning a state championship this year. His favorite memory was traveling to Miami because he was able to bond with all of his teammates. Henry is committed to Hillsdale for basketball and is undecided on his major.
Nick hails from Bay Village as a graduate of Saint Raphael. Nick is a two-time letter winner in basketball and has three years of experience on the varsity football team. Although Nick loves basketball, he was team captain of the football team as an outstanding tight end. Outside of basketball, Nick is a Welsh Big Brother and a pallbearer leader. His favorite memory was going to Miami last year. He wants to finish out this year with wins and to have fun. According to the SIBN color analyst, Lamirand is the best player on the team, hands down. Nick is undecided on a college but plans to major in business.
Mike is an alumnus of Saint Raphael and is a two-year letter winner and known for his outstanding perimeter defense and shooting abilities. He is also a three-year varsity lacrosse veteran. Mike looks forward to building more memories this year, and his favorite memory was also the Miami trip. He will miss representing the blue and gold the best way he knows how to, by giving everything he has 100% of the time. Mike is undecided on his college choice.
Will was a CYO legend at Saint Michael the Archangel. This year Will is the co-captain of the basketball squad and represents Mr. Jim Skerl in wearing #34. Outside of basketball, Will is a pallbearer. As the rest of this year goes on, Will is driven to win a state championship. His favorite memory as a two-year varsity basketball player is the Miami trip. Will said that the thing he will miss most is the family he has made through Saint Ignatius Basketball. He is undecided on his major and choice of college.
Alex attended Cleveland School of the Arts in grade school, and this is his first year as a varsity wildcat. Outside of basketball, Alex is a member of the multicultural student union. For the rest of the season, Alex wants to make a deep run into the playoffs, making it to the State Championship. His favorite memory as a Wildcat was beating Saint Edwards last year on JV. Alex has set a goal to play the biggest role he can to take the Wildcats to states. Alex said he will miss the Saint Ignatius Campus more than anything. He is undecided on his major and choice of college.
Manny Diaz, JD Dickerson, George Zien, Matthew Lally
All four of them do a great job helping out the team. Manny and JD went on the Miami trip last year. This Wildcats basketball team is lucky to have four great managers.
In honor of these superstars, Senior Night was held. The Saint Ignatius Wildcats were at home against the Benedictine Bengals. The 10-4 Wildcats have played more games than almost every Northeast Ohio team, with an astounding 14 games under their belt. Although the Bengals haven't played as many as the Wildcats, their 1-8 record gave their squad experience. The Bengals' record showed struggle but also featured games against Saint Edward and Saint Vincent Saint Mary. Their lone victory was a towering 115-35 victory proving that this team can score.
On the other side of the coin, Coach Cam's Wildcats were on a five-game winning streak and prepared. Joyce was set to start all five of his seniors, with only one being under 6'5. Their height could not have been more perfect with Benedictine's 6'8 London Maiden in the low post.
The starting lineup introductions set a tone that is hard to match for Sullivan Gymnasium, and the home team embraced it. Alex Garcia connected on the first possession with a smooth jumper. On the other end, Maiden asserted his dominance with an and-one. Immediately, Raynor led the Wildcats on a 12-0 run. Holding the Bengal offense to five points halfway through the quarter. With an intense press defense intact, a 17-7 lead cushioned the Cats. The Wildcats and Bengals traded threes with two from Benedictine's Ju'Waun Howard.
With a ten-point lead to start the second quarter, the Wildcats were in no position to let up. Each team continued to trade buckets until junior guard A.J Fletcher knocked down a trifecta. The Bengals put together a nice run and finally cut the lead to double digits. Leading 24-16, the co-captain Will Yontek battled and put together a 7-0 run. Three minutes left in half left a massive 31-18 lead for the Seniors of Saint Ignatius. The excellent ball movement opened up the offense for another three ball from the 6'10 C.J. Yarian off a beautiful assist from the freshman Carter Jackson. Raynor closed the scoring for the Wildcats with a hard attack down the center lane. The half ended with a successful start to Senior Night. The 38-23 lead brought confidence to an already powerhouse basketball team.
Turnovers and fouls filled the first few minutes of the second half. Jaylen Brown for the Bengals took the first free throws of the half and went one for two at the line. Fletcher caught a missed shot and put it in early on for his seventh point of the evening. The Bengals began to pick apart the Wildcat press defense as Jaylen Brown picked up a floater. On the other end, Mattimore splashed in a three, Yontek laid one in, and the Freshman phenom, Calvin Little, slithered in for a layup. The Bengals quickly called a timeout after a 7-0 run for the Cats. Unfortunately for the Bengals, not even a timeout could stop the Cats on senior night. Will Yontek picked off the inbounds play and attacked hard, and finished with a high flying bucket. Little put in a floater, and the scoring terror continued. A 51-28 lead with 4 minutes left in the quarter sparked Jaylen Brown. He drove down the left side with determination and powered through for an and-one. In response, Jackson fired a smooth mid-range jumper. A few fruitless possessions ended with Yarian's and-one.
A 63-34 lead allowed for Senior Night to play to its fullest. The fourth started with all five seniors on the hardwood. Raynor did the only scoring early in the quarter with two free throws. The Wildcats tried to get fancy and ended up on a scoring drought. Raynor was the first to take a seat and received a standing ovation. Yontek followed and received the same. In the meantime, Mattimore bombed in another three and exited the game with an applause. With Lamirand and Garcia on the floor, fireworks were destined to happen.
Then, in an instant, Sullivan Gymnasium exploded louder than it has all season. A missed free throw kicked off a fast break and sent Garcia sprinting. A dish from the sophomore Braydn Szczepaniak led Garcia in for a monstrous slam on Senior Night. Just when the crowd's roar began to fade, the football team captain fulfilled a personal goal of his in style. On another fast break, Szczepaniak facilitated another pass for a slam dunk by Nick Lamirand, and the walls of Saint Ignatius High School echoed with screams for the class of 2021.
A 74-38 lead set the tone for an outstanding Friday evening. With some time left, junior Shondo Green connected from deep. Yarian and the sophomore Brandon Webster each got buckets to go. Scoring was minimal for the Bengals from that point on. The freshman Matt Ellis lasered in a corner jumper to close the game, and with that, every Wildcat scored on Senior Night.
The 83-44 victory put the Cats on a six-game winning streak and momentum that hasn't been this strong all year. The momentum will play a huge factor in their next matchup against the team from Lakewood, Saint Edward.
Ultimately, a historic night for Saint Ignatius Basketball could not have gone better. Be sure to tune in on the SIBN for Wildcat basketball on Friday and Saturday Night. Moreover, tune-in on the SIBN for Henry Raynor's signing day on Wednesday, February 3rd.