Eagles Reach Final Four with Historic Win
St. Edward defeated Garfield Heights 69-65 in overtime Saturday night at the CSU Wolstein Center to advance to the OHSAA Basketball Final Four. It was also the 400th win of Eagle head coach Eric Flannery’s career, and it earned the program’s tenth trip to the Final Four. The Eagles overcame a tremendous 27 point effort by the Bulldogs’ Marreon Jackson, a University of Toledo recruit.
Jackson scored the opening basket of the game, helping Garfield Heights grab a quick 4-0 lead in the opening few minutes. The Eagles gradually took control, and a late three pointer by junior Emmett Chambers gave St. Edward a 14-8 lead at the end of the first quarter. Held to only two points in the first quarter, Jackson heated up in the second. He scored 11 points in the period for Garfield Heights, but the Eagles stretched their lead to 37-26 at halftime. Senior guard Jack Sullivan hit a pair of three pointers in the second quarter to lead a balanced St. Edward attack.
The scoring pace slowed in the third period, and the Bulldogs narrowed the lead to 44-36 after three periods. Garfield Heights was playing hard, but the Eagles seemed to be in control. Three point plays from freshman Grant Hoffman and senior Tommy Schmock kept Garfield at arm’s length, and St. Edward led 55-46 with 3:40 remaining in regulation. That’s when the Bulldogs shooting came alive, hitting a trio of three pointers in under 90 seconds to make the game 56-55. Two of those triples came from junior Julian Whiteside, and one from senior Shawn Christian.
Garfield Heights fans exploded during the Bulldogs run, sensing that the Eagles were on their heels. St. Edward struggled from the free throw line in the closing minutes, failing to put the Bulldogs away. A pair of free throws from sophomore Brison Waller tied the game 58-58 with 28.8 seconds remaining. St. Edward had the ball for one final possession, but was unable to score. Bulldog fans were delirious, jumping and cheering at the clock hit zeroes. Eagle fans, on the other hand, were becoming increasingly nervous. Fresh memories of two Eagle overtime losses to St. Ignatius lingered, and Garfield had the momentum heading into the four minute overtime period.
Christian, a Cleveland State recruit, hit a three pointer to open the overtime period. Garfield Heights led 61-58, and the game seemed to be slipping away from St. Edward. The Eagles gathered their composure and went on a 8-0 run, highlighted by an “old-fashioned” three point play from senior center Kelvin Calhoun. Schmock, who had struggled with free throws earlier in the game, hit a pair to make the game 67-61 with 1:46 left in overtime. Jackson cut the lead to 67-65 inside the final minute, but St. Edward held on to win the game 69-65.
After the game, Flannery applauded his team’s grit and perseverance. “The way we battled tonight,” he said, “when push came to shove, they picked up the tempo.” Despite being the team’s third trip to the Final Four in four years, Flannery says he’s still excited by the achievement. “It’s always a new group”, he said after the game.
Schmock led the Eagle scoring with 17 points in the game. Calhoun had 11 points on the evening, including the key three point play in OT; Sullivan scored ten, including some clutch free throws down the stretch; Chambers and sophomore Demetrius Terry each scored nine. Jackson led all scorers with 27 for the Bulldogs; Christian had ten, and Waller had eight. The Eagles will face Massillon Jackson Friday night at 8:30 at the Schottenstein Center on the Ohio State campus. Jackson defeated Toledo St. John’s 54-38 on Saturday to earn its spot in the Final Four.
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