The Saint Ignatius Wildcats traveled far down I-77 to take on the Louisville Leopards on Friday.
The trip south resulted in a successful win for the Wildcats, 60-55.
The Wildcats came in off a powerhouse performance against Villa Angela-St. Joseph. The highly ranked team was no match for the Wildcats, as they blew out VASJ on its home court. With a 6-6 record, Saint Ignatius had a disadvantage on paper against the 11-4 Leopards. But two schedules were extremely different, with not much comparable competition.
Lukas Bielek dominated the first quarter early starting off on a 3-0 run. The senior scored two easy lay-ins and a deep three-pointer to take a quick 7-0 lead. The first period turned into a battle, taking back and forth blows for each team. Leopards’ sharpshooter Cameron King turned in some strong play, but Connor Cmiel stepped up to shut him down with outstanding defensive efforts. Bielek stayed a hound on defense, stealing passes like a burglar.
The first played out to be a small ball slam fest with dunks by Bielek and Chase Toppin. The Wildcats’ offensive and defensive efforts held a close game with Louisville, earning a narrow lead, 18-17.
The second stayed close all throughout, but Toppin took over the offense with several assists and buckets coming left and right for the athletic finisher. Danny Nunez came alive with great play off the bench. Henry Raynor ate up on the glass with easy rebounds and contributions all around the court. Bielek chipped in to close his first half with 13 points. The Saint Ignatius big man, Kevin Davet, slammed two ferocious dunks in and blocked shots all over the 6’8 Spencer Hall of Louisville. The Wildcats established a 29-26 lead by the end of the first.
The third was a dominant showing by the Wildcats. Bielek poured in extra buckets and blocked a shot and notched a steal. Cmiel held his own on the floor, running the offense and defense. Nunez hit a smooth three in the corner to extend the lead to 41-32 midway through. Commanding plays by Caleb Blake held the lead, as the Wildcats outscored the Leopards 17-10 in the third, finishing with a 46-36 lead.
The fourth was a scary jolt for the Wildcats. The Louisville crowd got loud and threes started raining in from Jared Mathie, Colton Jones, and Jimmy Wright. The Wildcats’ defense held the lead throughout, thanks to another steal by Bielek and several blocks for Raynor and Davet. Bielek continued to make his presence known finishing with 20 points and Toppin closed out with 12.
Late in the fourth, Wilson Young played outstanding defense, and Cmiel hit very clutch free throws to secure the 60-55 victory.
With the win, Saint Ignatius pushes its record up to a 7-6 with an upcoming makeup game against the Westerville South Wildcats on Saturday. The JV squad will tip at 1 pm and varsity to follow at 2:30. Tune in on the SIBN!