The Wildcats were out for revenge tonight as they played rival St. Edward inside a packed and raucous Sullivan Gym on Friday Night.
Before the game, the school honored three African-American alumni – Fred Nance ’71, Dominic Ozanne ’71, and Nelson Bryant ’71 – with the Trailblazers Award, as they were the first black athletes across various sports at Saint Ignatius.
After that, it was game time. Early on, the Wildcats came out to play, and despite a few defensive lapses, which led to some open looks for St. Ed’s, the Cats still had more intensity than their rivals, which lead to more pressure on defense. The pressure led to turnovers, which resulted in fast break buckets.
That trend of aggressive defense lead into the second quarter, led by guard Chase Toppin. The junior followed up his recent streak of impressive performances with another stellar one on Friday night. His on-ball defense disrupted St. Ed’s on offense, and he had key assists that ledd to big time buckets by his teammates.
“I think it’s just the help of the teammates, really” Toppin said in regards to his performance. “I see myself as a pass-first point guard, so I try to get everyone involved.”
Toppin would finish the game with 13 points. All in all, the defensive performance by the Cats was elite as they held the Eagles to just 9 points in the second quarter, with the score being 34-23 at half.
The Wildcats found themselves in trouble early on in the third quarter. Starting center Kevin Davet found himself in foul trouble early on, and would have to go to the bench with four fouls. He had done a good job up to that point at getting key rebounds and stifling the Eagles in the post. Senior center Lores Valenzuela stepped and gave key minutes, as the team's other center, Darius Moss, was out with an ankle sprain. Valenzuela gave the Cats a strong performance in the third. Despite only scoring two points, he was efficient in getting big rebounds, executing picks efficiently, and continuing the strong defensive performance.
“He's a strong athletic young man who plays really hard,” Head Coach Brian Becker ‘77 said about Valenzuela. “He put it together tonight, he went out and competed.”
Valenzuela played a big part in sustaining the lead over the Eagles. The Cats led, 45-34, going into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, the Cats put it all together and dominated, guided by the game-high scorer with 24 points, Lukas Bielek. The senior had a masterful game not only on the defensive side of the ball, but on offense, too. Bielek took it to the Eagles with some impressive drives, clutch 3-point shooting, and key fast break buckets that helped the Cats keep the momentum. He scored 7 of his 24 points in the 4th, and they were much-needed buckets to stave away a comeback by the Eagles.
“Lukas finished really, really well,” Coach Becker said.
In the end, the Wildcats were victorious over their rivals, beating Saint Edward, 65-53.
When asked how much his team has grown over the course of the season Coach Becker said, “To put it in math terms, this team has grown exponentially...these last few games we’ve put together 20, 25, 30 minutes of good basketball, but we still have to get to the magical number of 32.”
The team has now extended its winning streak to 6 games, the longest of the season. Now, the Wildcats move on to their next game on Saturday night at Beachwood. JV begins at 5:30, followed by varsity at 7 p.m. The game can be heard live on the SIBN.