KETTERING, Oh - The Wildcats had another packed weekend with two games against very challenging opponents. The Cats had the opportunity to push ahead to a three-game win streak, but they had to play their best to get revenge on a team they lost to last year and to knock off a top 20 nationally ranked team.
First, the Wildcats had the North Canton Hoover Vikings, a team who upset the Cats on a last-second game-winning shot last season. Both teams started slow on offense, with many missed shots and turnovers. The Vikings ran a plodding-paced offense meaning this would be one of the lowest-scoring games of the Cats' season. The Wildcats trailed after the first 13-5.
Ace Bucker got the Cats started in the second, splashing two quick threes. Reece Robinson joined in with a massive swat block that sent the ball flying out of bounds. The Cats could swap momentum to their side and go to the half with a 22-21 lead.
Friery scored the Cats' first six points, hitting two threes in back-to-back possession from almost the same spot. Tristan Marshall also helped by crashing the offensive glass and adding second-chance points for the Cats. They grew their lead to 34-28 with one-quarter left.
The Cats breezed through the fourth quarter and wasted the clock, forcing the Vikings to stray away from their methodical offense. Marshall had the dagger for the Cats with a monster slam and the Blue and Gold won 49-42.
Next up, the Cats took on the number 19 team in the country, the Huntington Prep Irish, in the Flyin' to the Hoop Classic in Kettering. Many scouts and basketball fans had gathered to watch this Classic and the Wildcats put on a show for them.
Braydn Szczepaniak showed a willingness to absorb contact by drawing two early charges on the Irish. The Cats were able to get off to a hot start, thanks to Carter Jackson and Friery. Friery got a coast-to-coast lay as well as a contact finish around the rim. Meanwhile, Jackson was running the offense well and hitting pull-up jumpers. They had the lead 23-15 going into the second.
Owen Maruca started the second hot with a three and an offensive rebound and putback. The Cats controlled the boards and limited any highlight plays the Irish were trying to complete. The Wildcats led the number 19 team in the country 37-21 at the half.
Jackson had a monster third quarter for the Cats with a few pull-up jumpers and steals. He also punished the rim with a rattling dunk to keep momentum in the Cats' favor. Ace Bucker added a smooth crossover and stepback three to help the Wildcats reach a 56-49 lead after three quarters of play.
The Cats needed to tread water in the fourth to keep the lead and leave with the win. They did more than that and eventually increased the lead to 20 points. The Irish were getting frustrated with the Cats smothering defense. After a while, the reserve unit got quality minutes, including Sean Martin with a slam and Gus Rossman with a post hook. The Wildcats got the massive upset, winning 83-67.
Jackson's performance against Huntington Prep is worth noting as he scored 16 points, had three rebounds, two assists and a steal and shot a perfect 7-of-7 from the field.
The Cats got their record up to 9-5 before a match-up with Lutheran East on Friday. Tip-off will be at 7:30 p.m. and the SIBN will have live coverage.