Coming into Friday after a big win over Lutheran East, the Saint Ignatius varsity basketball team was looking to start a little bit of a streak against the Cleveland Heights Tigers.
The Wildcats did just that, earning a 61-59 victory at Sullivan Gym over the Tigers.
The Wildcats started the game off strong. Griffin Hanna led the way in the first quarter, sinking two three pointers. After the first quarter, the Wildcats were ahead of the Tigers, 15-7.
That lead would narrow in the second quarter. Cleveland Heights went on a run in the final two minutes, making the score 28-25 at half. Kevin Davet and Hanna led the Wildcats in scoring, both with six points at the break.
In the third, the scoring picked up, but the lead didn’t. The Cats clung to a 38-37 advantage midway through the quarter. Freshman Jon Effertz put up five points in the third, leading the team in scoring that quarter. Wilson Young dished an inbound to Effertz for a trey to end the third. Saint Ignatius led 47-42 going into the exciting grind we call the fourth quarter.
In the final stretch of the game, the Wildcat lead shrunk to two. With 2:04 left in the game, the score was 57-55. In the final minute of play, the Wildcats found themselves down for the first time in the night. The score 59-58 in favor of the Tigers.
Chase Toppin then came up in the clutch. Driving to the basket, drawing a foul, and making the free throw, Toppin converted a three point play. Toppin gave the Wildcats a 60-59 lead with 36.5 seconds left to play.
It was all up to the Wildcat defense now, and they showed up. Cleveland Heights turned the ball over and quickly fouled Hanna. The junior converted a shot at the foul line to set the lead at 61-59 with 11.3 seconds left to play.
Following a Tigers timeout, the Wildcats forced a Cleveland Heights turnover with a few seconds left on the clock. The Wildcats dribbled it out, winning this game 61-59.
It was a great all-around game for the Cats. The three main contributors to the win were Hanna with 10 points, Toppin with 10 points, and Davet with 12.
“It was a great team win, I thought everyone contributed a lot,” Davet said. “This game was a great morale booster and I think we can beat anyone at this rate. We have Garfield [Heights] next week and I think we’re ready.”
Head Coach Brian Becker ‘77 was pleased with the victory and is excited about his squad.
“I thought the kids followed the game plan really well. We did have some crazy turnovers but all in all, I thought it was a great effort,” Becker said. “Cleveland Heights is extremely talented, Nigel Martin is pretty good and Jaelyn Withers is going to play at Louisville. I thought we came together defensively tonight, one of our goals was to hold that team under 60 points, and we did just that. That gives us the ability to win games if we can hold a team to under 60.”
Becker was particularly happy with the team’s starters, as well as the bench play.
“I thought we got some good play from a bunch of different people. Toppin played extremely well in the second half,” Becker said. “Jonathan Effertz as a freshman at our first home game gave us great minutes, as did Danny Nunez, Henry Raynor in the post, it was a team win and a springboard for us.”
As Coach Becker said after the game, the Wildcats have a tough stretch coming up next week.
“Next week doesn’t get any easier for us,” Becker said. “With two great teams in Garfield and Solon who are outstanding in the Cleveland area. We’re gonna get back to work on Monday and look forward to that challenge.”
The JV and Varsity games against Garfield Heights and Solon can be heard on the SIBN next week.