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The Cats Get a Pair of Wins Against the Eagles

By Eli Maistros '24, 02/06/24, 2:45PM EST


The Basketball Cats took on St. Edward and Avon Friday and Saturday to extend their winning streak to five.

OHIO CITY, OH - The Varsity Basketball Cats tipped off another busy weekend with a rivalry game against the St. Edward Eagles on Friday night. Despite trailing on the road in a hostile environment, the Wildcats came away with a 64-61 over St. Edward. They would turn around the next night to celebrate Senior Night, where they would defeat Avon 76-52 and notch the program's 1400th all-time win. 

The Wildcats faced off against their cross-town rival looking to accomplish a feat that hasn't been done since the 2016-17 season and that is to defeat St. Edward on their home hardwood. 

Damon Friery started the scoring with a mid-range jumper, but Brian Sullivan answered with an and-one layup. The teams went back and forth early, as they do many times against each other, trading buckets and long possessions. 

Joey Scarpitti nailed a corner three to take the lead, but Jack Zapolnik ran the fastbreak and finished at the rim to tie it back up. Friery threw down a slam dunk, but two buckets from the Eagles gave them a 14-12 advantage after the first quarter. 

Mike Lamirand put the Wildcats on the board in the quarter with a layup through contact and Zapolnik made another layup to give Saint Ignatius a lead. Uzike Nshungu canned a corner three and Angelo Kulacz put the Eagles up five with a layup. 

St. Edward continued to cling to their lead, with the advantage fluctuating from 2-5 points for the remainder of the quarter. Kulacz hit a three in front of the Wildcat bench to push the lead to seven and after a Wildcat free throw, the teams hit the lockers, the score 27-21 in favor of the Eagles. 

The re-introduction of Reece Robinson and Quinn Woidke, who picked up two early fouls, helped jump-start the offense in the third quarter. Robinson made the first two buckets before Sam Springer hit a trifecta to cut the home side's lead to three. 

The Eagles were unfazed however, with Kulacz connecting on a layup, then dropping a dime to Max McClellan for a layup. Woidke slowed the run with a deep three-pointer, but sophomore Bryan Vlosich responded with a triple of his own. 

Zapolnik converted on two transition layups before setting up Kalli Johnson for a corner three to cut the lead to two. After two Eagles free throws, with four seconds left in the quarter, Zapolnik knifed through the lane and banked home a layup with a foul to cut the lead to one after the third quarter, 42-41. 

To start the fourth quarter, Zapolnik again hit an off-balanced layup through the trees to give Saint Ignatius their first lead since the first half. After a deflection, Woidke picked the ball up in the paint, made a layup, and was fouled for a three-point play. The junior added two more free throws on the next possession to force the lead to five. 

Nshungu slowed the bleeding with a dream shake-esque bucket in the paint, but Zapolnik somehow got a falling skyhook layup to drop, sending the Wildcat faithful into a frenzy. Sullivan made a layup, but there was Zapolnik at the other end, with yet another basket in the paint. He finished with a game-high 17 points and eight assists. 

Wendell Henry split a pair of free throws, blocked a Zapolnik shot on the other end and then hit a corner trifecta to chop the lead down to one point. Nsungu was fouled on a layup attempt and made both free throws, giving St. Edward a late lead. After a missed layup, Zapolnik ran the break and dished to Friery, who threw down a poster dunk to restore the lead. 

Springer picked off an errant inbound pass out of an Eagle timeout and rocked the rim on a breakaway dunk. The senior big man forced a turnover at the other end and after a lengthy possession, Woidke made a floater to extend the lead to five.

With under a minute left, Scarpitti was fouled by Zaplonik, his fifth, but both free throws were missed. Woidke split a pair from the stripe, and Sullivan raced down the court and scored a layup. Matt Ellis made two huge free throws, and Nshungu made a layup on the other end before two Woidke free throws sealed it for the Wildcats. It would be the Wildcats' first regular season sweep of St. Edward since the 2016-17 season. 

SIBN Player of the Game vs. St. Edward: Jack Zapolnik

The next day, Saint Ignatius returned home to Sullivan Gymnasium to take on the Avon Eagles. It was also senior night, as the class of 2024 was recognized for their time with the basketball program. Head Basketball Coach Cam Joyce honored those seniors by running out a starting five of Ezekiel Alfonso-Tavarez, Sean Martin, Max Woidke, Alijah Haddox and Jackson Pierce, all making their first varsity starts. 

Neither team could score a bucket for the first two minutes and 20 seconds. Eventually, Avon scored two consecutive buckets before Pierce started the Wildcat scoring with a three-pointer. A Tyson Ziegler triple grew the Eagle lead to five, but Springer answered with a three and a layup, followed by Ellis canning a corner trifecta. 

Avon continued their outside brigade with a Nolan Good deep ball, which Zapolnik immediately answered at the cup. The last 90 seconds were all Wildcats forcing multiple turnovers and ending the frame with a 21-17 lead thanks to another Ellis three. 

Quinn Woidke knocked in a corner three to start the quarter, as the scoring was slowed after the high-powered first. Two consecutive Eagle layups chipped at the lead, and another Ziegler triple cut the advantage to one. 

The teams continued to trade buckets when Robinson threw down a two-handed jam to stretch the lead. Zapolnik picked up a steal and score, one of his five swipes on the evening and knocked down three free throws after a technical foul to give Saint Ignatius a 37-30 lead at the half. 

The Wildcats started the second half with a 6-0 run with layups from Woidke, Springer and Friery, who added a slam dunk to raise the lead to 13. Lamirand connected on a wing three-pointer but was answered when Chance Miller converted on a circus shot with a foul, which ended the quarter with a score of 52-38. 

Springer set the tone for the final frame with a quick-trigger three to open the scoring. Zapolnik and Friery each converted on-and-ones and Robinson threw down another jam, pushing the lead over 20 points, as more of the Wildcat reserves started to make their way into the game. 

Three-pointers from Pierce and Haddox highlighted the final three minutes, as the Wildcats were able to hold off Avon to complete the back-to-back sweep of the Eagles. 

The Wildcats remain the number one ranked team in Division I by Martin RPI at 16-3. The Cats have three regular season games remaining: Benedictine, Walsh Jesuit and Brush. The Tournament draw will take place on Sunday, February 11. That is when the Wildcats will learn what District they will be playing out of to begin their journey in the OHSAA Tournament.

SIBN Players of the Game vs. Avon: JP Pierce and Mario Cisneros