High school basketball in Ohio is always entertaining. For Saint Ignatius, their playoff runs seem always to surpass crazy situations. Two seasons ago, the Wildcats fell to the Brecksville Bees in a four O.T. game. The following year, Coach Cam's Wildcats battled hard against Rhodes and fell short in the final seconds. Regardless of the recent history, this year's squad is different. Not only is Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce in his second year and succeeding like no other, but the talent and depth behind the Wildcat roster are too promising to overlook.
As the playoffs near, Saint Ignatius Basketball is on a nine-game winning streak and under Captains Henry Raynor and Will Yontek. These leaders have guided their team through thick and thin with many challenging groups along the way. The season isn't quite over yet, and as the Cats hold onto a 14-4 record, their play keeps on improving.
The boys from Ohio City have been tested throughout the season with battles against The Fighting Irish, The Eagles, the Lutheran East Falcons, and many more. These roadblocks have all been critical moments of growth for the Wildcats, but with less than three games remaining in the regular season, the road didn't end yet, and there was another roadblock.
This time around, the team's roadblock was the Rossford Bulldogs. Traveling from Toledo with a 19-0 undefeated record and ranked 4th in Division II, their team was hungry to make history. The Wildcats started with a bucket from Will Yontek and a beautiful assist from Henry Raynor to C.J. Little. The fast-paced play caused ruckus right away with a Rossford timeout. The obsequious Wildcats were aware of the Bulldogs' chances as they sprouted an 8-3 run following the timeout. Will Yontek and Junior Jon Effertz each tacked on a three proving their longball early. Coach Cam's man-to-man defense clamped up Rossford's offense, only allowing nine first-quarter points and multiple long possessions coming up fruitless.
The home team maintained the 5 point lead heading into the second quarter. An and-one from Junior Nic Borojevich closed the gap to 2 on their opening possession. Little responded with a layup off a clean assist from Senior Mike Mattimore. The offensive boards were being dominated by the red and gray as Borojevich connected once again off a putback. Mattimore showed his versatility with a corner triple bringing the lead to 19-14. There was no turning back in the second quarter as the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run. Borojevich ended the run with a bucket directly in front of the Wildcat bench. With a 1:10 left in half, Ben Morrison splashed one in from deep, cutting the lead 28-20. Immediately after, Morrison knocked down another bomb off the catch and shoot sequence. In need of a basket, Effertz dropped in a fadeaway at the buzzer.
Will Yontek and Jonathan Effertz led the way in scoring. Still, the offensive rebounding power from Gavin Dewese and the sharpshooting from Ben Morrison and Nic Borojevich needed to be handled with a too close for comfort game in play.
Yontek started the second half scoring inside with a fancy reverse finish. After two quick Bulldog possessions, Sophomore Braydyn Szczepaniak banged in two back-to-back trifectas. On the other end of the floor, C.J. Little got called for a technical foul. The free throws fell for Rossford, bringing the score to 38-27. Yontek battled inside for an and-one and connected, improving his already superb 65% average from the charity stripe. Yontek's play in the past two games has been nothing less than outstanding, and he continued to prove himself with post-season success in his headlights. Morrison once again swiveled inside for a layup cutting the 40-32. Holding for the last shot, Raynor shot with too much power from three and ended the quarter with a Wildcat double-digit lead.
6'8 Bulldog Derek Vorst worked a full 9-5 shift in the paint for an offensive board and bucket. His points pieced together a mini-run, and a timeout was called immediately after. Raynor was able to get to the free-throw line and come away with two points, but Cam'Ron Gaston viciously attacked and scored on the other end. Jon Effertz anticipated a pass and picked it off, and capped off the steal with a fast break right-handed lay-in. The Wildcats 49-37 lead forced another timeout out of Rossford's head coach, Brian Vorst. With the hot hand all night, #34 spun inside with a left-handed hook that dropped every jaw in Sullivan Gymnasium. The run continued as Effertz weaved in with a euro-step. Senior Alex Garcia chipped in with a layup and extended the game to 57-41. Borojevich went to the line and got a layup to go. On the other end, Junior Timmy Ruddy capped off a 61-49 victory with two free throws.
In back-to-back games, Will Yontek has been too dominant to overlook. The SIBN player of the game was undoubtedly the 6'7 big man with 19 points and a huge contribution defensively. His play goes much further than one game as Yontek, and the Wildcats take the win streak to 9.
The Wildcats will now prepare for back-to-back road games to end the regular season. They will travel to Massillon to take on the Jackson Polar Bears on Friday at 7 p.m. The Wildcats have also scheduled a match-up with the Mentor Cardinals on Saturday at 7 p.m.