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The Wildcats Fall to Hoover; Rematch vs. St. Edward Looms

By Danny Gibel '22, 02/03/22, 10:45AM EST


Following two straight losses to St. Vincent-St. Mary and North Canton Hoover; the Wildcats now have their sights set on their road matchup with St. Edward.

OHIO CITY, Oh - The struggle at home continued for the Wildcats on Saturday night. The Wildcats welcomed the North Canton Hoover Vikings into Sullivan Gym for game number 16 of the season. After falling to St. Vincent-St Mary, the Wildcats entered with an 8-7 record. The Vikings brought an impressive 12-4 record highlighted by wins against Massillon Jackson and Green.  

There has been a trend of heartbreak at home for the Basketball Cats; they have lost three games on their home court this year by a combined total of seven points. In those games against Walsh Jesuit (64-60), Saint Edward (55-54), and Hoover (50-48), the Wildcats had numerous opportunities to win the game, but it seemed as though there was a different obstacle to overcome each time.  

In the Walsh Jesuit game, the season-high 25 turnovers in 36 minutes of play sunk the Cats.  

Against the Eagles, the Wildcats failed to score in the game's final four minutes, allowing their eight-point lead and the win to fall through their fingers.

Most recently, against Hoover, the Cats were missing two starters and the offense only put up 13 points in the first half.  

A difficult schedule, adversity with injuries and self-inflicted wounds have played huge roles in the Wildcats' 2021-2022 campaign. This was no different for the Saturday matchup with Hoover.

Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce elected to go with CJ Little, Matt Ellis, Charlie Hyland, Owen Maruca and CJ Yarian. Ellis, Hyland, and Maruca made their first start of their varsity career and were thrust into the lineup in the absence of Carter Jackson and Jonathan Effertz.

Hoover came out hot to start the game, jumping out to a 9-2 lead with 3:42 left in the first quarter.  

Ace Buckner did his part early, scoring a quick four points, which cut the deficit to three points with 2:54 left in the opening quarter.

The moment of hope for the Cats was short-lived as the Vikings hit a couple of shots of their own. Including a corner three by Wesley Collins that put the Wildcats down 14-6 with 1:50 remaining in the first quarter.

Hoover is a team that enjoys long possessions filled with numerous passes and drains upwards of 30 seconds off the game clock. The Wildcats witnessed that firsthand early in the game as their offensive chances were at a premium.

The offense in the second quarter improved, but not by much. The Cats once again had an off quarter and only mustered seven total points, which brought their first-half total to thirteen points.  

The Wildcats put up a fair amount of shot attempts from the field, but hardly any of them found the net.  

A bright spot in the second quarter was a catch-and-shoot three-ball by Yarian off an assist by Ellis. At the time, Yarian made it a seven-point game, but the offense still failed to get going. Over the next couple of games, Yarian's three-point shot could play a crucial role in spacing out the floor while Effertz is out dealing with an injury.  

The Vikings closed out the first half on a 10-2 run and sent the Cats to the locker room with the hopes of a victory quickly fading.  

The Wildcats opened up the second half down 28-13 and needed something to change fast, or the game might have been over before the fourth quarter even began.

Maruca gave the Cats some early-half momentum with an and-one that brought the bench to its feet. Even down 15 points, the bench still brought the ever-important energy in the second half.

Then another and-one for the Wildcats, this time by Sean Martin, cut the lead down to nine points with 3:15 to go in the third quarter.

Both sides went on to trade baskets for the remainder of the quarter and the score heading into the fourth quarter was 39-29 in favor of Hoover. The Wildcats made tremendous strides in the third quarter, scoring 26 points while holding the Vikings to just 11, putting them within striking distance of the lead.

The first big blow dealt with the Vikings in the fourth quarter was by Ellis. The sophomore nailed a corner triple to pull the Cats within seven points with 6:52 remaining in the game.

Maruca kept the good vibes going with a three-pointer of his own from the opposite corner. Maruca's clutch shot made it a 41-37 game with 6:29 left in the fourth quarter.

The tension inside Sullivan Gym began to grow with 4:49 remaining as Little spun inside for an athletic finish at the rim that sent the Wildcats bench into an all-out frenzy. Little's basket cut the lead down to just two points, an incredible feat considering the Cats once trailed by 15 points.  

After a couple of baskets for either team, Yarian finally erased the lead and tied the game at 44-44. Little brought down a rebound after a missed layup and kicked the ball out to a wide-open Yarian, who proceeded to bury a three-pointer from right in front of his bench.

The Wildcats took the lead for the first time all game on their next possession as Buckner found Braydn Szczepaniak in transition for the layup to make it a 46-44 game. Over the previous several minutes, Szczepaniak had played a significant role in rebounding and scoring as well.

The game came to a climactic finish with 17.3 seconds remaining. The Vikings inbounded on their half of the court, made a couple of passes and then Matthew Minzer fired up a prayer from behind the three-point arch and made it. Minzer's three-ball came with five seconds left and gave the Vikings a 50-48 advantage.

No timeout was called by the Wildcats and Little had no choice but to throw up a shot at the other end of the floor, which was well-off the mark. The final score in yet another heartbreaker at home for the Wildcats was 50-48.  

The Basketball Cats gave this game everything they had and sometimes that still isn't enough. They trailed by 15 points at the half and 10 points to start the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, they fell victim to another closing seconds three-pointer by the opposing team.  

Little finished with six points, five assists and four steals. Buckner had six points and four rebounds. Szczepaniak had a team-high ten points. Maruca finished with six points and five rebounds. Yarian added eight points, including his game-tying three-pointer. The Wildcats fell back to the .500 mark at 8-8 with the loss.

Next up for the Blue and Gold is the second and final regular-season matchup with the St. Edward Eagles. Since these two teams last saw each other, the Eagles have dominated for three consecutive victories against Lutheran East, Glenville and Cleveland Central Catholic. They scored 80+ points in all three games, with the margin of victory being an impressive 20 points.

The JV and Varsity squads will make the trip to Lakewood on Friday night. JV is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., while Varsity is set to tip-off at 7:00 p.m. The SIBN will have live-video coverage for both contests. Fans can also follow @SIHSSports for in-game updates and highlights.