CUYAHOGA FALLS, Oh - The Wildcats were rolling to begin the season as they had a 2-0 record and an average point differential of plus 30.5. They matched up against another 2-0 team, the Walsh Jesuit Warriors, who were also looking to stay undefeated. Last year, the Warriors defeated the Cats on the road 64-60.
The Wildcats traveled to the Warriors home court this time, which meant it was their first road game of the year. Road games are always more challenging due to the unfamiliar court and environment. The Warriors also fielded a massive student section that stayed loud throughout the game.
Unfortunately, the first quarter didn't go as the Wildcats hoped it would. The Warriors came out fast, forcing early turnovers and another Wildcat slow start forced a timeout after a 6-0 run. The Wildcats struggled to find open looks until Carter Jackson finished a tough and-one to get the Cats on the board. The Wildcats were down 19-7 after the first period.
The second quarter started similarly for the Cats due to two technical fouls, one on Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce and one on Reece Robinson.
Eventually, the Cats were able to close in and make it a closer game going into the half. Ace Buckner finished an and-one which brought the Wildcats' bench back to life and Robinson flashed his three-point ability drilling one from the right wing.
The Cats' offense had finally started flowing late in the second quarter despite 20 total first-half foul calls. For reference, an average NBA game has around 20 fouls in an entire game. The Cats went to the half trailing 37-32.
The Wildcats came out of the locker rooms red hot as they started the second half on an 8-0 run. Ace Buckner drilled a three that was quickly wiped away as the Warriors hit back-to-back threes the next two possessions.
There were fewer foul calls this quarter, allowing both teams to play more physically on both ends of the floor. The score quickly became closer and with mere seconds on the clock, Sean Martin had a steal and score to tie the game at 47.
Both teams entered the fourth quarter intent on playing very physically and both offenses stalled. No team scored a single point until two minutes had passed.
Walsh Jesuit broke the dry spell on offense and erupted to a 12-0 run. The Cats didn't get a bucket until Brayden Szczepaniak finished a three-point play, but there were only three minutes left to play in the game. That didn't stop the Cats as Buckner hit an and-one of his own on the next possession.
It was a tight match at 63-59 with 90 seconds to go. Unfortunately, two questionable out-of-bounds calls went the Warriors' way and hindered any chance the Cats had at finishing the comeback.
Buckner wasn't ready to give up, however, as he drained a three to keep the Wildcats in the game. It wasn't enough, as the Cats fell 67-62.
Buckner totaled 16 points and three rebounds. Szczepaniak added 10 points and five boards while shooting 57% from the field. Matt Ellis dished out five assists and Jack Zapolnik shot 66% from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats had 25 rebounds to Walsh's 20 and 12 steals to Walsh’s five. The Cats forced 18 Warrior turnovers while having a season-low 14. The Wildcats only managed 11 assists throughout the game and only three blocks.
The Wildcats will look to get back on track with a home game in the Sullivan Gym Friday, December 9, against the Lutheran West Longhorns. Lutheran West comes into this matchup with a 4-0 record, but they fell to the Cats 57-38 last season. Tip-off is at 7:15 p.m. and the SIBN will have live coverage.