CLEVELAND, Oh - The Wildcats had a massive weekend with two tough matchups, including the rivalry game against the St. Edward Eagles. Fresh off the big win against St. Vincent-St. Mary, the Cats wanted to stay hot and rack up some weekend wins.
First up was the St. Edward game in the first rivalry matchup of the season. Both sides of the stand were packed to the brim and the student sections were roaring with noise in anticipation of tip-off. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be a fun night for Wildcat fans.
The Cats turned the ball over early until a Damon Friery three got them started. The Eagles started the game shooting lights out from beyond the arc and forced a Saint Ignatius timeout. After the Cats fell 19-5, Matt Ellis got things going with a contact and-one and then there were threes in back-to-back possessions by Buckner and Braydn Szczepaniak. Despite this, the Cats trailed 24-16 after the first period.
The Cats' second quarter would only improve if the Eagles continued their offensive barrage. They soared out to a quick 20-point lead and the Cats couldn't buy a defensive stop. The halftime buzzer sounded and the Wildcats were down 54-29.
The second half was better for the Cats as they found some offense early. Bucker drained a three and Sean Martin generated defensive pressure as a spark plug. Down 66-50 heading into the fourth, the Blue and Gold would need to string a run together in hopes of a win. Unfortunately, that run didn't come as they struggled to get shots up and nothing was going their way. The Cats fell to their rivals 86-64.
Ace Buckner, Damon Friery, and Braydn Szczepaniak scored 13 points to lead the team. The Wildcats were outrebounded as a team 32 to 25 and shot only 33.3% from three to St. Edward's 46.7%.
Next was the Mentor Cardinals in the Cleveland Play-by-Play Classic at John Carroll University. Coming off the significant loss, the Cats looked fired up and hungry to show out in front of a big crowd.
They jumped out to a great start, with Bucker and Carter Jackson generating offense with smooth jumpers. Then Friery and Buckner drilled a three each and the Cats' defense was fired up and playing spectacularly. They displayed a great quarter of team basketball which helped them jump to a 24-9 lead after one quarter.
Braydn Szczepaniak got the Cats' first four in the second quarter off of a coast-to-coast steal and score and a running hook shot. The defense started forcing Cardinal turnovers on almost every possession leading to offensive opportunities. Martin found Jack Zapolnik on a beauty of a pass, and Zapolnik drained the deep three. Then the next possession, the two connected on another assisted three drilled by Zapolnik. To make matters worse for the Cardinals, Braydn Szczepaniak nailed a buzzer-beater jumper before the half to give the Cats a 41-18 lead.
Tristan Marshall started the third with a post-shimmy and an offensive rebound putback for the first four points of the second half. Soon Zapolink would make the gym erupt with a lob pass to Bucker as the Cats' offense was on fire. Reece Robinson would also get a slam dunk to push the Cats' lead to 71-40 with only one period left to play.
The fourth quarter was more of the same for the Cats, as the offense was simply unstoppable. Sam Springer sent a Cardinal shot flying with a strong block and Owen Maruca added a slam on the rim. The Wildcats would take the win, 84-47.
Many Wildcats had impressive stat lines, but Bucker was the leader scoring 20 points, two rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Friery also had a great game posting 15 points on 6-of-10 from the field. As a team, the Wildcats shot 45% from three and 58% total from the field.
The Wildcats have another busy weekend ahead as they will go up against the North Canton Hoover Vikings on Saturday for the Hoover MLK Showcase. On Sunday, the Cats will travel to Kettering to take on Huntington Prep (WV) in the Flyin' To The Hoop Showcase at Trent Arena. Both games will be challenging for the Cats but will be entertaining to watch. The SIBN will have video coverage from Hoover on Saturday but will be audio-only due to showcase regulations on Sunday.