Third Time's the Charm; Eagles Beat Ignatius for District Title
The St. Edward basketball team released a year’s worth of frustration Saturday night at Strongsville High School. They defeated arch-rival St. Ignatius 69-50 in the OHSAA District Championship game, advancing to the state’s Sweet Sixteen. The Eagle win avenges a district championship loss to the Wildcats last March, as well as two regular season defeats this season. The two regular season games were both nail-biting overtime thrillers; Saturdays game followed a different script. Unlike the earlier two contests, St. Edward held its second half lead and finally put the stubborn Wildcats away in the closing minutes.
“We knew we were saving some things for these guys” Eagle coach Eric Flannery said when asked about the difference between this game and the two regular season matchups. St. Edward opened up an 18-10 lead in the first quarter, paced by eight points from freshman Grant Huffman. ”Sometimes he’s our best player on the court,” said Flannery of Huffman after the game.
Senior Thomas Schmock helped the Eagles sustain the lead in the second quarter, scoring six of his 16 total points on the night. Wildcat star Matt Davet kept his team in the game with 8 first half points, but the Eagles led 29-19 at halftime. St. Edward played aggressively on defense all night, taking advantage of their deeper bench and up-tempo style. The humidity inside the jam-packed gymnasium also took a toll on the Wildcats, who continued to struggle offensively in the third quarter.
Eagles center Kelvin Calhoun took charge in the third quarter, getting himself to the foul line and wearing down the Ignatius big men. St. Edward led 49-30 after the third period, but the Eagle faithful were still concerned. They had fresh memories of the Wildcats’ two earlier comeback wins, and didn’t want to see a repeat.
Luckily, this fourth quarter played out well for the Eagles. St. Ignatius fouled heavily in the final minutes, turning the game into a free throw contest. Guard Jack Sullivan took over in the, scoring 11 points from the free throw line in the final period to keep the Wildcats behind by double digits. St. Ignatius cut the lead to 59-46 with just over two minutes remaining, but could get no closer. St. Edward closed out the win, and an ecstatic student section cheered wildly as the final seconds ticked off.
Sullivan led the Eagles with 17 total points in the game. Schmock and Huffman each had 16; Calhoun finished with 13. Davet lead all scorers with 22 for the Wildcats. There were lots of hugs and handshakes after the game, as the Eagles celebrated their district title. “Our guys executed the gameplan tonight,” Flannery said as his players were cutting down the nets, “I was really, really happy with our guys tonight.”
Mike Deneen has extensive experience covering sports and community stories for the Lakewood Observer. Mike has been a Senior Industry Analyst for the Freedonia Group in Cleveland, Ohio, since 1998. He has appeared on CNBC’s Closing Bell, NPR’s MarketPlace and has been quoted multiple times in The Wall Street Journal. He has made multiple guest appearances on ESPN Cleveland radio. Mike also writes for Inside Northwestern, a website that covers Northwestern Wildcat Athletics. You can reach him on Twitter at @MikeDeneen1