ROCKY RIVER, OH - On a snowy Saturday night, the Wildcats hit the road to Rocky River for a primetime clash with the Lutheran West Longhorns. In a sold-out, fired-up gymnasium, the Wildcats pulled off a statement win against the top-ranked team in Division II.
Both teams were evenly matched in the game's early stages, with the Longhorns' Dylan Bartchak and Saint Ignatius' Sam Springer trading threes on opening possessions. Both teams had answers when the other took the lead, matching each other's scores up to 11-11.
Matt Ellis got on the board with a three-pointer via a leaping pass from Damon Friery, who shortly after collected an offensive rebound and converted an and-one layup. Off of a steal, Jack Zapolnik caught his defender off guard with a pull-up three-pointer, which he drained to cap a 9-0 run. Kendyll Compton stopped the bleeding with a trifecta for the Longhorns and Zapolnik canned two free throws to bring the score to 22-14 after one.
Quinn Woidke got on the board for the first time with a quick trigger three to open the second quarter, and Reece Robinson snuck open for a reverse layup, which forced Lutheran West to call timeout.
Ellis picked off passes the following two possessions and took them all the way for four quick points. Robinson got a steal of his own and Woidke finished on the other end, making coach Jordan Duke call another timeout only a minute after his first.
The teams spent the next minutes trading buckets, but a Robinson tomahawk dunk put the Wildcats up 21, their biggest lead of the night. Three trifectas in under two minutes by Bartchak, Jayson Levis, and Derek Fairley helped trim the Wildcat lead to 42-29 going into the locker rooms.
Robinson netted the Wildcats' first four points of the quarter as the away side maintained their lead. Fairley hit his second three of the game to cut the lead to 10, but Ellis hit a contested three to push the lead back.
Fairley stayed hot with a tough and-one finish that also gave Zapolnik his fourth foul of the game. Woidke answered with a dynamic spin move and finger roll to end the quarter with the score 55-45.
Josh Meyer cut the lead to single-digits for the first time since the first quarter with a fallaway push shot, and Fairley hit a tough layup to cut the lead to six. 5'7" freshman Jakaris Shelton drained a corner three and set up Compton, who tied the game with a trifecta of his own.
After a missed Wildcat shot, Robinson stole the ball from Levis in the backcourt and put in a layup to retake the lead. He was matched, however, by Shelton, who made an athletic and-one layup, which was Zapolnik's fifth. He missed the free throw, but the Longhorns took the lead with a Levis layup.
With Zapolnik out, Woidke took over ball-handling duties and hit a three-step-up to take a one-point advantage. He continued to grow the lead with a putback layup off a missed three. Robinson split a pair of free throws and Woidke hit both of his to make the score 65-59.
Robinson got another steal, a common theme with the Longhorns' 19 turnovers and Woidke hit a fallaway three from the deep wing. After Fairley made a layup on the other end, Woidke put the exclamation mark on the game with a euro-step finish in transition. He finished the game with 23 points, 16 in the fourth quarter. Free throws ensued, and the Wildcats got another statement road win to improve to 12-3.
The Cats return home on Friday to host Division III power Lutheran East; tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Cats will travel to Akron to take on Buchtel at 7:00 p.m.
With the release of the new Martin RPI rankings, the Wildcats are the number-one ranked team in Division I.