The season of dreams came to an end against the Westerville Central Warhawks in the state semi-final game. After cutting two nets, heading to Dayton, and proving they were more than just any ordinary team, the winter sports season indeed came to a close this year.
The playoffs began with momentum against them after losing back-to-back games to close the season. A solid win against Parma put them ahead to play in the District Championship game against Lorain. With West Virginia commit Seth Wilson leading the way for Lorain, the Cats climbed the ladder with scissors and brought home their first hardware piece of the season.
As they advanced to regionals, the game everyone was waiting for approached quickly. There was more to prove as the Blue and Gold dressed up against the Green and Gold for the rubber match. A nail-biting victory highlighted by Henry Raynor’s last-second finish enraged the flame that fueled Saint Ignatius basketball. With more work to be done, Coach Joyce’s Cats surged past Lima Senior High to punch their ticket to Dayton for the first time in 20 years.
Coming into the weekend, the Basketball Cats prepared well with practices at the fieldhouse in Parma, Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, and Capital University. These locational practices prepared the team for the arena-like feel that Dayton University provided. With Mentor losing to Centerville on the other side of the bracket, the 8:00 p.m. Saturday showdown was the final hump.
This match would be the most significant challenge all year, saying a lot regarding the Wildcats’ rigorous year. Led by senior guard Tasos Cook, the red hot Warhawks have been on an absolute tear as of late. This year, averaging 20 points per game, Cook’s squad finished with an astounding 22-2 record winning their last 14 games. He has led their team to the school’s first back-to-back district championships and their first regional title.
The Wildcats were entering the game with Henry Raynor and Jon Effertz plowing through competition with a strive to repeat history on its 20th anniversary. The battle began with a Cook jumper. Jon Effertz tacked on a three-ball and some free throws to get the ball rolling. Cook finished the quarter with half of the team’s 10 points. On the other side of the ball, Effertz rained in his share of buckets to give Saint Ignatius the 12-10 lead.
The second quarter was all Cook. His 11 point quarter consisted of a three-pointer and shooting 4-5 from the free-throw line. The Wildcats lived from behind the arc as a three from Carter Jackson, and C.J. Yarian would keep the Cats consistent. Saint Ignatius has been outstanding in the first half of basketball all year long to lack third-quarter play. With a 23-20 deficit, Coach Joyce and the Wildcats were in an unfamiliar position.
The second half was an overall struggle for the Cats as they were outscored 28-22. Although Cook played just eight minutes between the two quarters due to leg cramps, the Wildcats couldn’t find a rhythm. M.J. Davis and Quincy Clark combined for 16 points in the second half alone, while Effertz and Raynor were locked up better than Buckingham Palace. Will Yontek was able to get six points, but it just wasn’t enough for victory as the Cats fell 51-42 against a fantastic Westerville Central team.
The Warhawks went on to lose the State Championship game by just one point to the Centerville Elks. As the Wildcats made their way home, optimism filled the mind of Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce. With the promising future ahead of Effertz senior year alongside his defensively talented classmates, the team is in good hands.
In addition to the upcoming seniors, Braydn Szczepaniak led the incoming juniors with a significant leadership role. With a handful of current freshmen getting multiple minutes this year, none other than C.J. Little and Carter Jackson carried the Wildcat’s backcourt for three years to come.
In just his second season as head coach, Joyce took his team to a level it has not seen since 2001. The future is bright for Saint Ignatius Basketball, and this year has just given a glimpse of what is to come. The seniors deserve a resounding thank you for being leaders, mentors, captains, and building blocks for the program. Thank you to Henry Raynor, Will Yontek, Mike Mattimore, Nick Lamirand, and Alex Garcia for four great years representing the blue and gold.
The Wildcat’s motto was “change the narrative.” This historic season has done light years more than change the narrative but rewrite the future. “It won’t be another 20 years before we get back to this level,” says Joyce.