OHIO CITY, Oh - In the first game after returning from Las Vegas, the Wildcats would have to play a top team in the state in St. Vincent-St. Mary. The Cats came into the game barely over .500 at 5-4, while the Fighting Irish were 8-1. The Fighting Irish also had a signature win over nationally ranked Sierra Canyon in the Play-By-Play Scholastic in Columbus.
The Wildcats started slow offensively, with early turnovers and missed shots. Braydn Szczepaniak finally got them on the board with a tough contact finish. Damon Friery splashed two three-pointers to spark the offense late in the quarter. Meanwhile, the Cats' defense didn't give the Irish an easy time and played physically on defense. The first quarter ended in a 15-15 tie.
The second quarter started strong with a Sam Springer offensive rebound and finished below the rim. The Wildcats' offense started showing out when they went on a 7-2 run fueled by an Ace Bucker three. A Michael Lamirand block led to a Friery slam and helped swing the momentum in the Cats' favor. Late in the quarter, Sam Springer added a three of his own to help the Cats to a 35-29 lead at the half.
Both offenses halted at the beginning of the third period as turnovers and offensive struggles were everywhere. The Wildcats slowly started losing momentum as they gave up free throw opportunities to the Irish. Jack Zapolnik was a bright spot in the third as he added eight of his ten points in that quarter. The Irish had taken the lead with one quarter left to play, 52-50.
The fourth quarter was tight and had everyone on the edge of their seats. It was a tie game with six minutes left to play and both teams ramped up their defensive energy. Eventually, the Wildcats could grasp a two-point lead with under a minute to go off a Friery three-pointer. Then, in the game's final seconds, the Irish had the ball and a chance to hit a game-winning shot. The Wildcats defense, however, made a heroic stop to clinch the win 63-62 with a Friery block.
Friery had an incredible game in front of the home crowd scoring 24 points, four rebounds and a steal. He shot a perfect 4-of-4 from three and an overall 9-of-11 from the field.
It's Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce's first win against his father, Dru Joyce. Dru has coached the Fighting Irish since 1999; this was the fourth meeting between the father-son coaches since Cam took over the Saint Ignatius Basketball program in 2019.
The Cats' next game is what everyone has been anticipating. The Wildcats take on St. Edward Friday, January 6, with tip-off at 7 p.m. Make sure to tune in for this age-old rivalry, as the SIBN will have live coverage.