WESTLAKE — Two teams that struggled through most of the season saw their troubles continue Tuesday night in the Division II sectional tournament before Rocky River prevailed in a 43-41 victory over Elyria Catholic that went down to the final play. With the win, the Pirates (7-13) advance to play Clearview on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Despite trailing through most of the game and falling behind 33-23 with a quarter to go, the Panthers staged a different kind of comeback in the final period. Although down in the score, they were sent to the line repeatedly by the Pirates, who saw their margin slip to 42-41 after Conor Voreis sank a pair of free throws for EC with 21 seconds remaining.
The Panthers then sent Kyle Dunne to the line with 14 seconds left. The Pirate junior made the first shot and missed the second with the Panthers getting the rebound. Following a timeout with 11 seconds remaining, senior guard Joe Januzzi drove the left side of the key, but 6-foot-2 sophomore Justin Seffernick blocked the shot and the Panthers’ chances of advancing to the tournament.
“As far as my guys were concerned, it was a kind of a microcosm of our year,” said coach Alan Januzzi after his Panthers bowed out of the tournament at 4-17. “They’re a great group of kids who work extremely hard but can’t get a break. And they just couldn’t get one tonight.
“But they continue to work and they continue to put themselves in a position to win like they did tonight. There were plenty of times they could have packed it in but they never did. A bounce here, a possession there, that’s what it came down to.”
In the early going, River seemed to take the Panthers out of the game in holding them to just four points on seven shots from the field in the first period. Things looked even worse for EC early in the third period as it trailed 28-14 at the 6:29 mark, but from there, the Panthers struggled back into the game behind the scoring of seniors Sergio Montanez (11 points), Spencer Roule (10) and Voreis, a junior, who led the team with 13.
But while the Panthers were coming back, junior guard Jimmy Corrigan hit a pair of threes and scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the second half for Rocky River.
“(EC) did a good job late in the game at getting the ball inside.” said River coach Tom Thompson. “They were bigger and stronger than us. It was tough to defend them inside. I credit all our guys who guarded Joe Januzzi and kept him in check. He’s a good player and scorer.
“Corrigan hit some free throws for us down the stretch and we wanted the ball in his hands. He shoots 84 percent from the foul line and we want the ball in his hands. Overall, he shot the ball well tonight.”
Thompson was already thinking of Clearview, which took a bye in the first round with its 18-2 record.
“They are very athletic with three-sport type athletes,” he said. “We’re going to have to control tempo to the kind of game we’re comfortable with. We’re going to have to play smart against them.”
Rocky River 43, EC 41
ROCKY RIVER (43): Jimmy Corrigan 5-5-17, Nate Kopecheck 2-3-7, Aaron Crawford 1-0-3, Mike Stevens 0-0-0, Kyle Dunne 1-0-2, Bruno Nuro 1-2-4, Mike Pavlik 2-0-4, Justin Seffernick 2-0-6, Jonathan Lihani 0-0-0, Mark Moskwa 0-0-0. Totals 14-10-43.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (41): Joe Januzzi 1-0-2, Joe Dempsey 0-0-0, Clay Jerge 0-0-0, Nick Ksenich 1-0-2, Conor Voreis 5-3-13, Adam Kirsch 1-1-3, Spencer Roule 2-6-10, Sergio Montanez 5-1-11. Totals 15-11-41.
Rocky River 11 12 10 10 — 43
Elyria Catholic 4 10 9 18 — 41
Three-point field goals: Rocky River (5-13); (Crawford, Corrigan 2, Seffernick 2); Elyria Catholic (0-2). Field Goals: Rocky River 14-36 (39 percent); Elyria Catholic 15-32 (47 percent). Free Throws: Rocky River 10-15 (67 percent); Elyria Catholic 11-21 (53 percent). Turnovers: Rocky River 15; Elyria Catholic 21. Rebounds: Rocky River 16, Elyria Catholic 31. Fouls: Rocky River 19, Elyria Catholic 14.
Contact Jim Jablonski at 329-7135 or email@example.com.