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Wildcats Split a Pair at Home

By Danny Gibel '22, 02/17/22, 11:45AM EST


The Basketball Cats defeat Cleveland Central Catholic on Senior Night on Friday and came up just short against the Brush Arcs on Saturday.

OHIO CITY, Oh - As the Wildcats headed into the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, they had four games remaining on one of the most demanding schedules in Ohio.   

The first game of the back-to-back stretch was Senior Night for the Basketball Cats as they got set to take on the 5-11 Cleveland Central Catholic Ironmen, who entered the matchup on a three-game losing streak.  

The pregame festivities involved each senior being individually recognized for the hard work and dedication to the program throughout the last four years. After all the seniors had walked across the court, everyone posed for a group picture at center court.

Then, it was game time in Sullivan Gym. The Wildcats featured an all-senior starting lineup of Rakyi Davis, Timmy Ruddy, Charlie Hyland, A.J. Fletcher and Shondo Green Jr. Green was the only one of the five with a previous varsity start.

After a basket on the first possession by Davis, the game started slow for the Cats on offense. Having seen little to zero time together on the floor previously, the starting five looked out of sync and could not get the offense going.

The Wildcats were playing solid defense, allowing eight points through the first four minutes and zero points over the last three minutes. However, they could only score four points throughout the first half of the first quarter.

Ultimately, Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce made a lineup switch with 2:43 remaining in the first quarter. Yarian, the 6’10’’ senior, checked in to a nice applause, alongside Ace Buckner, Carter Jackson, Matt Ellis and Owen Maruca.

The switch paid off as just a minute after checking in, Ellis sank a corner three with 1:47 remaining to bring the Cats within two, with the scoring being 11-9 as the first quarter would come to a close on that score.

That scoring trend transcended the first quarter, as Buckner eventually broke the stalemate and gave the Cats a 13-11 lead with a deep three-pointer, with 4:36 left in the first half.

The Cats continued to play stifling defense in the second quarter, shutting out the Ironmen through the first 4:14 of the quarter. The impressive run of defense ended when Anthony Wimberly tied the game with a mid-range jumper from the left elbow.  

The first consistent showing for the offense came in the closing minutes of the first half as the Wildcats closed out the second quarter on a 9-2 run to give themselves a 22-15 lead. Martin, Fletcher, Green and Yarian all scored during the scoring run.  

Early in the third quarter, Bucker was a critical component of the Wildcats’ success on offense. The sophomore scored the first basket, poking the ball away on an inbound pass and laying it in for two points. Then a couple of possessions later, Buckner played some quarterback as he launched a full-court pass to Ellis right in front of the Wildcats’ signal-caller Joey Pfaff. Ellis caught the pass in stride and laid the ball off the glass for an impressive fast-break layup. Buckner kept it rolling with another basket with 4:35 remaining in the third quarter.

The Wildcats scored 12 points in the third quarter, which is just a notch below their season average of 15.6 points.  

The fourth quarter began with a comfortable 34-23 lead for the Blue and Gold.

The Ironmen looked like they were first on the board in the final quarter, but an offensive interference by Rayshawn Ford erased the layup by Wimberly.

Davis got his second basket of the night off a missed shot by Fletcher. Davis found himself in the right place at the right time as he got the putback to fall through the net.

Fletcher broke the game wide open and gave the Cats a 40-23 lead with a corner three, coming with 5:25 left in the fourth quarter. Carter Jackson got credit for the assist, driving toward the basket and then kicking the ball out to Fletcher in the corner.

The fourth quarter continued to be all-Wildcats with a Senior-Night Slam by Yarian. The senior center threw it down with two hands and brought the home side bench to their feet.

Ruddy and Green closed out the game for the Cats with two baskets in the final minute. Hyland bounce-passed to Ruddy, who had the entire left side of the court to himself and effortlessly banked it off the glass. Then, Hyland once again found one of his fellow seniors down the floor in transition on the next possession. This time, Green caught the pass beyond the three-point arch and then buried the three-ball.  

It was the perfect way to close out Senior Night as the Wildcats got the win by a final score of 53-36.  

Buckner led the Cats, finishing with nine points, five rebounds and four assists. Jackson had six points and two boards. Davis had four points, two assists and earned SIBN Player of the Game honors. Fletcher had a very productive night on the floor, tallying eight points, five rebounds, three assists, a block, and two steals. Ruddy added four points along with two rebounds. Ellis finished with seven points with two steals. Yarian and Green each finished with five points. The Wildcats shot 44% from the field and 25% from three-point range as a team.

The Basketball Cats got their second win in a row at home on Friday night, then set their sights on a matchup with Ohio University commit Elmore James and the Brush Arcs.  

This season, Brush maintained a 15-3 record and were 7-1 on the road, with their only loss coming at St. Edward High School in a 58-54 nailbiter. In that game, the Arcs never trailed by more than six points, but their 14 turnovers killed their chances of winning. Aggressive defense and trying to force turnovers would be a huge key for the Wildcats.

Heading into Saturday night, there was little history between Saint Ignatius and Brush, having only gone head-to-head on one occasion. That lone contest came on December 10th, 2020, four games into last year’s season, ending in the State Semifinal.

The Cats eventually outlasted the Arcs on the road as they narrowly defeated Brush 51-49, overcoming a strong scoring performance by Elmore James.  

Saturday’s game, being played at the corner of W. 30th & Lorain, was initially scheduled to take place on December 17th but was rescheduled due to COVID-19 concerns.  

The Wildcats, once again without Jonathan Effertz, would be looking for someone to fill in on the stat sheet in the absence of the senior guard.  

That “someone” came in the form of the sophomore duo of C.J. Little and Carter Jackson. The two second-year varsity players handled much of the ball-handling and initiated most of the offense early in the game.

Although, it was a different sophomore that got the Wildcats on the board first. At the 6:52 mark in the first quarter, Ace Buckner poured a corner triple that tied the game at 3-3.

Just a couple of possessions later, the Cats grabbed their first lead of the night, 7-5, off an inside layup by Braydn Szczepaniak. Jackson, who was credited with the assists, threaded the needle through several defenders with his pass.

The solid opening quarter continued for the Wildcats as Shondo Green Jr. scored on two straight possessions, first with a mid-range jumper, then with a three-ball. Green single-handedly propelled the Cats into a 12-7 lead with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter.

Near the end of the first quarter, the Arcs opened up a 7-1 run to take a 14-13 lead and were trying to capitalize on some lackluster offensive possessions by the Wildcats. Jackson stepped up, stopped the run with a filthy crossover move, and then drained the three-pointer that put the Cats back on top, 16-14.

Brush tied the game with under 30 seconds remaining and Szczepaniak’s last-second shot did not fall, so the Wildcats and the Arcs went into the second quarter tied at 16.

SIBN Players of the Game vs. CCC: Rakyi Davis and Jacob Cook

That first quarter is one of only six in which the Wildcats have started the game with 15 or more points in the opening quarter. Three of those quarters came during the Cats’ four-game stretch in Palm Springs.

Brush came out swinging in the second quarter, immediately taking a 23-18 lead and forcing Joyce to call a timeout with 5:08 remaining.

After the timeout, Jackson came up big once again and buried another three-pointer, closing the deficit on the scoreboard to two points.

The Wildcats would eventually tie the game again with 3:46 left in the first half. Fletcher snuck in a bounce pass to Jackson, who finished off the glass for an easy layup that pulled the Cats even with the Arcs at 25 points apiece.

Over the last couple of minutes, both teams had trouble getting the ball through the net. Eventually, the offenses rediscovered their groove late in the first half. Fletcher responded to an offensive surge by Brush with a clutch three to pull the Cats within one point of the lead at 29-28.  

Marlon Barnes then found a cutting Elmore James for a wide-open layup that brought the lead back to three.

Then, with 8.8 seconds remaining, a technical foul was assessed to Tyler Williams of Brush. Williams appeared to have said something to the referee after blocking a layup attempt by Szczepaniak. The ensuing technical free throws were both made by Fletcher, who once again cut the lead down to one.

The Wildcats then inbounded the ball after the technical foul, but Little’s shot at the buzzer did not fall, leaving the score 30-31 in favor of the Arcs.

The Cats opened the second half with a quick 4-0 start to take a 34-31. Brush quickly responded and took a 39-36 lead with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter after a layup by James, then two three-pointers by Barnes and Trace Bishko.  

The Blue and Gold offense stalled out in the later parts of the third quarter, as they had been held to just eight total points in the quarter at the 1:20 remaining mark. Four of those points came in the first two of the second half.  

After a barrage of threes throughout the quarter by Brush, the Wildcats found themselves down 50-40 with 50.9 seconds to go in the third quarter.

The Cats needed a spark of energy, something to get the intensity going as the final eight minutes approached.

Another technical foul was assessed to Brush, committed this time by James. Fletcher again converted on both free throw attempts, but the Wildcats still trailed by eight points.

Little did the fans inside Sullivan Gym realize, but they were about to witness one of the top moments of the Wildcats’ 2021-2022 season.  

Ellis was the man who delivered. In the closing seconds of the third quarter, Ellis and Szczepaniak trapped Barnes on the sideline and forced him to step out of bounds with 2.2 seconds remaining on the game clock. Now equipped with a bonus possession, Ellis decided to make some magic happen. The sophomore received the inbound pass, heaved the ball nearly the entire court length, and banked it off the glass to beat the buzzer.  

Ellis’ shot was a giant momentum swing for the Cats because it brought them within five points of the lead. The Wildcats were ready to make a push for the lead in the fourth quarter.

Ellis continued to hit the big shot for the Wildcats. The sophomore drilled a three-ball to tie the game at 52 with 5:40 to go in the game.

After that, however, the offense went cold. The Wildcats were unable to score over the next 2:32. The drought ended on a mid-range jumper by Little from the right elbow, making the score 58-54.

Over the next couple of minutes, both sides had a lot of back and forth. Neither team could gain a true advantage, and although Brush was leading 59-54 with a minute to go, it was anybody’s game.

The intensity inside Sullivan Gym was dialed up to 11 when Fletcher nailed one of the most clutch shots of his Saint Ignatius career with 40.8 seconds remaining in the game as he would close the gap to 59-57.

Barnes and Little exchanged layups which brought the score to 61-59, with Brush still leading. After Little took advantage of slow defense by the Arcs and banked the shot off the glass, Joyce called a timeout with 23.8 seconds on the clock.

After the timeout, it was Brush basketball and Woolfork was promptly fouled upon getting the inbound pass. With the crowd going wild, Woolfork missed the free throw.  

Little first brought down the rebound, then had it poked away. Brush picked up the loose ball and then missed two consecutive layups before the ball was knocked out of bounds by Jackson. However, many of the Saint Ignatius students in attendance begged to differ with that call.

The Cats were forced to foul off the inbound again, fouling James. James went one of two from the line and again, Brush missed an inside shot before Jackson eventually came away with the rebound with 7.5 seconds left.

The Arcs then fouled Jackson as he was maneuvering down the floor. After the foul, Joyce called his last timeout to try and draw up a play to get an open three with his team down 62-59.

The ball ended up in the hands of Fletcher, a 51.9% three-point shooter, who just barely shorted the shot attempt off the front of the rim. The buzzer then sounded with no time to get off another shot and the score remained 62-59 as the Wildcats fell to the Arcs.

There were plenty of missed opportunities for the Cats, many of them coming in the fourth quarter when Brush missed an abundance of layups inside the paint. As well as a couple of costly turnovers and missed shots early in the fourth quarter cost the Wildcats the win.

Little finished with 11 points on 83% shooting, two rebounds and three assists in by far his best game of the season. Jackson led the way for the Wildcats with 12 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Fletcher contributed 10 points, four rebounds, and two assists. Ellis added a crucial eight points. Maruca tacked on four points and a team-high nine rebounds. The Wildcats shot 39.3% from the field, 29.6% from three-point range, and 87.5% from the free-throw line.

Next up for Basketball Cats is a Thursday night matchup with the 15-5 Lutheran West Longhorns. Tip-off is set for 6:00 p.m. from Lutheran West High School. The SIBN will have live video coverage of the action.  

Following the game against Lutheran West, the Wildcats are right back in action on Friday night for the regular-season finale against the 18-2 Green Bulldogs. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. from Sullivan Gym. The SIBN will have live video coverage. Fans can also follow @SIHSSports on Twitter for in-game updates and highlights.