OHIO CITY, Oh - The Lutheran East Falcons paid a visit to the corner of West 30th and Lorain last Friday for what has become an annual matchup with the Saint Ignatius Wildcats. These two teams have met on the hardwood five out of the past six seasons. The Cats were 3-1 in the past four games leading up to this season’s matchup. It was a chance for the Wildcats to get themselves right following a turnover-filled 64-60 loss to Walsh Jesuit Tuesday night. Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce’s squad, took full advantage of the opportunity as they comfortably defeated the Falcons by a final score of 69-50.
C.J. Yarian got things started for the Cats. The 6’10” senior won the opening tip-off and then proceeded to bury a three-pointer from the top of the arch just 12 seconds into the first quarter.
Yarian continued to impact the game early on in the next possession. After receiving a pass from Carter Jackson, Yarian drew two defenders away and quickly passed the ball back to Jackson, who was left wide open and nailed his first three-ball of the season.
Jamail Spivey Jr. was quick to respond to the Falcons. The senior guard made a three-pointer of his own with Jonathan Effertz in his face. Spivey’s three made the score 6-3 in favor of the Cats, with 6:33 left in the first quarter.
Braydn Szczepaniak got his first bucket of the night back at the other end with an acrobatic layup as he spun off the glass to give the Cats an 8-3 lead.
Several minutes later, the Falcons got on the scoreboard on a long downcourt pass to Jesse McCulloch, who got the layup over Jackson.
C.J. Little got the Wildcats’ lead back up to five points with an excellent assist to Yarian down low. Little would later end the night with five total assists.
Both teams would struggle to score over the next few minutes before Matt Ellis poured in a three-ball from the corner and held the release right in front of the Falcons’ bench. Ellis’ first points of the contest gave the Cats a 13-5 lead.
Little kept things rolling for the Wildcats as he flew down the floor in transition and effortlessly laid the ball in with his right hand. The sophomore has tremendous speed toward the basket and can outrace any defender on the open floor.
The Falcons once again answered with a long pass, this time to Devin Belle, who snuck behind the defense of the Cats and had a wide-open lane to the basket. Belle’s layup made the score 15-7 with 1:57 to go in the opening quarter.
Lutheran East then went three of four from the free-throw line, cutting the lead down to five and forcing coach Joyce to call a timeout.
With under 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Cody Head got inside and avoided the outstretched arm of Tristian Marshall as he banked the layup off the glass to bring the margin between the two teams down to three points.
Charlie Hyland then gave the Cats some breathing room. Hyland pushed the ball quickly down the floor, then floated in a short jumper to put the home team up by five.
The first quarter concluded with the Wildcats leading the Falcons 17-12.
A.J. Fletcher got the Cats on the board first in the second quarter. Fletcher received a bounce pass from Effertz, drove the ball down the baseline and laid it in the basket for two.
Over the next several minutes, both teams went into a scoring drought. It was finally broken by Shondo Green, who nailed a deep jumper in the corner from just inside the three-point line. Green’s bucket put the Cats up 21-12 with 5:11 remaining in the second.
With 4:27 on the clock, Little got a steal and then gave the ball off to Fletcher, who promptly rained in a three from a couple of feet behind the line.
After McCulloch made two free throws, Little launched a pass to Effertz in the corner just one possession later. Effertz then rattled home the triple for his first basket of the night. Then, on the next possession for the Cats, Effertz buried another three-pointer which gave Saint Ignatius a 31-17 lead with 3:23 left in the second quarter.
“Both us and Lutheran East had tough losses coming into this game,” says Effertz. “Both teams wanted the win and we got the job done.”
Owen Maruca continued the run on offense as he faked his way inside for a wide-open layup to the right side.
The Falcons were then able to get the ball in the basket, but not before Szczepaniak drew an offensive foul.
The Wildcats then got a quick four points from Szczepaniak, who got an offensive board and converted on the second chance effort and also Fletcher, who rebounded a missed shot in transition, spun it off the glass and through the hoop all in one mid-air motion. After those points scored, the Cats opened up a 37-17 lead with 1:31 to play in the first half.
Head made a three-pointer from the outside, near the Wildcats’ bench, to make it a 17 point game. After a timeout called by the Cats, Head tipped a pass away and took it half the length of the court for an easy, fast-break bucket.
To close out the first half, Jackson chased down his own missed shot and put it back in to give the Wildcats a 39-22 lead at halftime.
Effertz started the second half with a bang as he buried a trifecta from the top of the arch, which put the Cats up 42-22. The senior sharpshooter finished the game shooting 3 of 4 from three point range.
A couple of minutes into the third, Little once again displayed his lethal speed when moving down the floor. After receiving a pick from Yarian at halfcourt, Little split two defenders and laid the ball in for two points.
Little continued to produce fast-break layups, as he got another on the next trip down the court to put the Cats up 46-24.
With 4:00 left in the third quarter, a beautiful sequence for the Wildcats took place. As McCulloch was trying to put up a shot, he had the ball stolen from him by Little. Little then drove down the floor and threaded the needle on a crisp bounce pass to Effertz, who took it in stride and banked in the layup.
Thirty seconds later, Yarian brought down a defensive rebound and launched a near full-court chest pass to Effertz down at the other end of the floor. Effertz once again laid in a bucket, avoiding a block attempt by Nelson Johnson.
The Wildcats struggled to score over the next couple of minutes until Ellis buried a corner three, which increased the Cats’ lead to 53-29.
The third ended with the same 53-29 score after neither team could make their shots in the quarter’s final minutes.
McCulloch opened up the fourth quarter with a deep three right in front of his bench. The sophomore for Lutheran East finished with a team-high 13 points and three blocks.
Later in the quarter, with 6:18 on the clock, Rakyi Davis dished out an assist to Ellis. Ellis buried another corner three, his second of the game.
Spivey then launched a three-ball from way behind the line to bring the lead back down to 21 points for the Cats.
Ellis added to his point total with an inside layup with 6:12 left in the game where he was fouled but missed the ensuing free throw. However, he continued to shine in the fourth quarter as he drilled another corner three with 5:00 to go.
With the Wildcats in control of the game, many reserves got significant playing time in the final minutes. Every active member of the Basketball Cats got to touch the hardwood on Friday, and all but two of them scored in the contest.
The Wildcats defeated the Falcons by a final score of 69-50 and improved to 2-2 on the season.
Little finished with seven points, two rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Fletcher had seven points, three rebounds, and two assists. Ellis led all scorers with 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting (4 of 5 3PT). Effertz added 13 points with three rebounds and two assists. Yarian ended the night with five points, six boards, three assists, and two blocks.
“This was a good confidence booster; our next three opponents are very good,” explains Effertz. “It was good to see everyone score and touch the floor as we head into the toughest part of the schedule.
The Basketball Cats got a much-needed win against a quality Lutheran East team. The win brought the Wildcats back to the .500 mark just as they head into their most challenging stretch of the season. The three-game homestand at Sullivan Gym will come to an end this Friday as the Brush Arcs make the trip to Ohio City.
The Cats defeated the Arcs last season 51-49, holding off an impressive squad led by Ohio University commit Elmore James. Tip-off between the Saint Ignatius Wildcats and the Brush Arcs is set for 7:15 p.m. this Friday. Follow @SIHSSports on Twitter for in-game updates or tune into the SIBN for live video coverage.