ELYRIA, OH - An instant classic match-up would occur inside the Elyria Catholic High School Coliseum as the Wildcats battled the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Bees in an overtime thriller in the OHSAA District Final.
The Bees started with a patient offense, while Braydn Szczepaniak began to the Cats with two quick buckets. Reece Robinson finished an and-one, but the turnover woes again hurt the Cats. Matt Ellis secured a steal and score, but the Wildcats trailed after the first 13-12.
Carter Jackson started the second with a smooth midrange jumper to cut the Bees lead to four. Damon Friery drained a three-ball and Szczepaniak crashed the offensive glass and drew a foul to keep the Cats' offense going. Then Szczepaniak drew a charge to stop the Bees' run. It was all tied up at 24 at halftime.
The third quarter was tight throughout, as no one could pull away. The Cats struggled to score until Ace Buckner finished an and-one to give the team momentum. Mike Lamirand also chimed in, nailing a three. The game was still tied heading into the final quarter, 34-34.
With just eight minutes of the game left to play, everyone was on the edge of their seats to see who would be crowned District Champions. Neither team could gain a lead and both sides were evenly matched.
Matt Ellis started the fourth with a three to give the Cats the lead and the Wildcats' trap defense forced the Bees to use all their remaining timeouts. It was still very tight with little time to go as Maruca got an offensive board and putback to put the Cats up one. Then Friery got fouled and headed to the line for the bonus. He hit both free throws putting the Cats up by three.
Then with about 10 seconds left and no timeouts, the Bees needed a three to tie the game and send it to OT. Luke Skaljac, who had been torching the Cats all game, threw up a leaning three trying to draw a foul. Miraculously he sunk the three to send the game to overtime and keep their hopes of winning district alive.
The overtime period was low scoring as both teams locked in on defense. Friery knocked down a three and hit a free throw to help the Cats get a lead. Szczepaniak drew a crucial charge that may have saved the Cats' season, as the Bees would have had an opportunity to take the lead otherwise.
The Cats hit one more free throw and were now up two points with seconds to go. The Bees had a baseline inbound to their big man Chase Garito and he missed the turnaround jumper defended by Szczepaniak and time ran out. The Wildcats were District Champions.
The Wildcats had 16 steals compared to the Bees' five and outrebounded the Bees by seven. The Cats only shot 31% from the field, limiting their turnovers to 10. Every quarter after the first quarter ended in a tie until overtime.
Now that the Cats were District Champions and had their days of celebration, they now look to their match-up against Garfield Heights in the Regional Semifinal. That game will be on Thursday, March 9th, at Kent State University. Tip-off will be at 7:00 p.m. and the SIBN will have live coverage.