KENT, Oh - The Wildcats went against a tough matchup with the Garfield Heights Bulldogs in the OHSAA Regional Semifinals. The Bulldogs have been one of the best teams in Ohio all year and came into the game with a 22-3 record. The Cats must be on their A-game to advance into the next round. Both teams started the game playing strong defense but struggling on offense. There were a ton of steals and turnovers and it was shaping up to be a low-scoring affair. It was only 8-6 after the first, with the Cats leading.
The offenses picked up a little in the second, started by an Ace Bucker floater. Reece Robinson added in with a post-turnaround jumper. Both defenses were still staying strong despite the higher scoring in the quarter. The crowd, including an extensive Wildcat student section, was rowdy as the Cats led at half 18-16.
The offensive woes were back again for the Cats at the start of the third as they couldn't find a rhythm. However, Robinson stayed strong on defense, blocking a shot so hard it made a booming sound. Lamirand also added in on defense with stuff on a dunk attempt which got the crowd roaring. Buckner led the offense as he went coast to coast for the lay and added a three right in a Bulldogs face. The Cats extended their lead to 29-24 after the third.
Buckner got the fourth quarter going with a full-court pass to Lamirand for an easy bucket. Friery added a hook shot, but the Cats' defense was faltering. The Bulldogs came clawing back and were right back into the game. They got the lead, but Lamirand stole a pass on a press and took it for the layup. However, the Bulldogs were helped out by a controversial foul call on a three-point attempt.
Eventually, it came down to the Wildcats having the ball with 30 seconds to go and a tie-ball game. Unfortunately, the Cats couldn't get a shot to fall in their possession. Garfield Heights' Marcus Johnson drew a foul and headed to the line. Johnson missed the first but hit the second free throw to take a one-point lead with two seconds to go. The Cats could inbound and throw up a half-court heave, but their prayers were not answered and they fell to the Bulldogs 38-37, ending their season.
Despite the disappointing loss in the Regional Semis, the Wildcats still had a very successful season. Overall they had a 19-8 record. They were able to play in one of the most prestigious high school basketball tournaments, the Tarkanian Classic and compete against top competition in front of many scouts and coaches. The seniors were celebrated greatly on a senior night as all five seniors, Braydn Szczepaniak, Tristan Marshall, Owen Maruca, Gus Rossman and Omar Zayed, all scored and contributed to the big win.
Later in the year, the Cats played in their rematch game against rival St. Edward in front of a massive home crowd. They got to showcase their talents in front of Cleveland stars like Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell and coaches JB Bikcerstaff and Kevin Stefanski. In a thrilling ending, the cats secured their rivalry win on the year and celebrated with their classmates on the court.
All that led up to the playoffs, which saw the Cats win four games and beat out Bresckville in a classic matchup to be crowned District Champions. The team raised the trophy and cut down the nets to celebrate another accomplishment. Despite the loss in the Regional Semifinals, getting there was no easy feat and that should also be observed. With many vital members returning to the team next year, the future is bright for Wildcat Basketball.
As this is the last time I will write for the SIBN on basketball, I would like to share a quick message from me, the author, Justin Dedrick '23. I have enjoyed writing these recaps, covering Wildcats basketball for my four years at Saint Ignatius and furthering my passion for sports media. I was honored to be able to be the basketball writer this season and bring these recaps to your screens so everyone could keep up with the team and their events throughout the season. Thank you to everyone who read these recaps throughout the year or tuned in for a broadcast and Go Cats!