OHIO CITY, Oh - The Wildcats' most anticipated game of the year had finally arrived. With a 10-6 record, the Cats were itching to get revenge on their rival, St. Edward, after the heartbreaking loss earlier in the year. This time the Wildcats were at home with the backing of the student section and a star-studded crowd in attendance, including NBA superstars Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell. Cleveland Cavaliers Head Coach JB Bickerstaff, Cavaliers assistant coach Greg Buckner and Cleveland Browns Head Coach Kevin Stefanski.
Both teams got off to a slow offensive start as both defenses were locked in. Ace Bucker started the Cats off with a three, but the offense continued turning the ball over and getting into foul trouble. Unlike the last matchup, the Wildcats' defense held firm and limited the Eagles' opportunities. Owen Maruca would chime in with a tough layup and the Cats would trail 13-9 after the first quarter.
Momentum started to flip in the Cats' favor to start the second as the Eagles couldn't buy a bucket. Carter Jackson had a smooth finish and Buckner drilled a sidestep jumper. The offense had finally come alive for Saint Ignatius and they went on a 14-4 run and ultimately outscored the Eagles 14-5 in the quarter. The Blue and Gold were leading 23-18 at the half.
Everyone was on the edge of their seats as the second half got underway. Bucker again got the Cats going with a three. Robinson had the best sequence of his career as he soared through the air for a monster slam and then hustled back on defense for a punishing swat that made the crowd erupt.
Buckner continued to pile on, adding another three, which got the Cavaliers' Darius Garland celebrating in the stands. Despite all of this, the Eagles were sticking around and it was 36-33 Cats leading with only one quarter left to play.
The stakes were as high as ever for both teams in a game with so much history and meaning. With only eight minutes left to make their marks on this rivalry, both teams walked onto the court, calm and collected.
The Eagles took the lead early and were limiting the Cats' offense. The lead kept changing back and forth as no team could gain an edge over the other. Both teams were in the bonus, which extended the quarter and helped build the suspense even more. Bucker continued his incredible night, knocking down another three to tie the game with 2:30 left.
St. Edward took the lead back with 90 seconds to go; however, that lead wouldn't last long because Damon Friery stepped up and sunk a deep three to put the Cats up two points. Seconds later, Damon Friery would have a wide-open lane and punish the rim with a dunk to put the Cats up three with 13 seconds to play.
The Eagles did not take a timeout and inbounded the ball immediately. Time was running out and the Eagles attempted a desperation three to tie the game, but it clanked off the back rim. In the skirmish for the ball, the Wildcats had secured it and subsequently won the game. Students would storm the court as the Wildcats had achieved their most remarkable accomplishment of the season. The final score was 53-50.
Buckner had an outstanding basketball game, posting 16 points, five assists, four steals and multiple clutch shots to keep the Cats in the game. Robinson also contributed in a big way with 10 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Ultimately, the Cats' defense was the game's hero, forcing 22 turnovers and holding Eds to only one point in the final minute.
After the huge upset win over St. Edward, the Cats had a game the next night against the 13-5 Glenville Tarblooders. The Cats started the match slow, getting a few clean shots up. Most of the Cats' points came off free throws until Reece Robinson added a slam dunk. At the end of the first, Glenville led 15-13.
Braydn Szczepaniak started the second quarter with a crafty up-and-under scoop layup. Reece had another dunk and Bucker drained a three as the Wildcats' offense had finally introduced themselves to the game. The Cats' defense forced the Tarblooders into taking low-percentage shots as the offense continued to pour on with a full-court pass from Buckner to Jackson for a slam. The Tarblooders only scored two points in the second quarter as the Cats led 34-17.
The third quarter was all Damon Friery as he finished a layup through contact and drained two three-pointers. The Wildcats were not letting up and led after the third quarter 52-28. The fourth quarter was a breeze for the Cats as they had already accumulated a formidable lead. Ezekiel Alfonso garnered some quality minutes, with eight points in the final quarter. When it was all said and done, the Cats won 78-43.
The Wildcats have two games this week, including an away game at Brush on Thursday night that will tip off at 7:30 p.m. and a home game on Friday against Toledo Start that tips off at 6:30 p.m. The SIBN will have live coverage for both contests.