LORAIN — Elyria Catholic was hoping for a season opener to remember. Instead it got a third quarter to forget.
Clearview dominated the third period, connecting on 10 of 14 shots from the field to turn around an eight-point halftime deficit en route to a 78-69 season-opening win at Szalay Memorial Gym.
Daimon Knowles scored eight of his game-high 26 points in the third as the Clippers outscored Elyria Catholic 25-9 in the period.
Clearview started the quarter on a 17-3 run to take control of the game and establish a lead it would never relinquish. It added a 20-point fourth quarter to salt the game away.
“The third and fourth quarters we gave up 25 and 20, respectively,” Panthers coach Jason Smith said. “In an eight-minute high school quarter, that can’t happen. Our defense has got to get better. We scored 69 points, so our offense wasn’t terrible.
“Our defense was just awful. Nobody was on help side and our on-ball defense has got to get a lot better. A lot of that falls on me. I’ve got to get a lot better at coaching these kids during practice to get them ready for these games.”
Despite playing without its leading returning scorer, Tyler Riddell, who was suspended for the season opener for a violation of team rules, the Panthers started the game with a flourish, opening on a 13-6 run and patiently running their offense.
But the Clippers chipped away at the lead, cutting it to 19-17 when Knowles banked in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first.
Clearview tied the game at 19 early in the second before the Panthers went on a 7-0 run. The Clips fought back again, cutting the score to 37-33 late in the half, but Panthers’ sophomore guard Justin Taylor scored the final four points of the half to give EC a 41-33 lead at intermission.
“I was very calm at practice,” Clearview coach John Szalay said. “I’ve seen us practice and I know we can play better than we did. We went to a different defense in the second half, and in the first half we were just a step behind. They were shooting layups because we didn’t get a chance to play defense.”
Clearview opened the second half in a 1-2-2 zone with long-armed, 6-foot-3 junior Gerrell Williams at the top of the zone. He was able to get his hands on many EC passes, and one steal led to the play that changed the momentum of the game.
Williams sparked Clearview’s 17-3 run when he stole an errant pass at the top of the key and drove the length of the floor for a two-handed tomahawk dunk that woke up the Clippers’ student section. When the smoke had cleared, Clearview had a 50-44 lead and was in control.
The Panthers cut the lead to 73-69 on a Danny Whitacre 3-pointer with 28 seconds left, but the Clippers put the game away at the free-throw line.
“Once we got a few deflections and Gerrell threw that dunk down, that kind of got us going,” Szalay said. “I was really happy because we haven’t scored 78 points here in a while. … We just haven’t had the athletes to do it. I was happy with scoring that many points and happy we hit our free throws down the stretch, but we obviously have to play better defense.”
Knowles hit five 3-pointers en route to his game-high 26 points.
“I kept getting open and my teammates kept getting me the ball,” Knowles said. “I was hitting. … It felt good. My coach always tells me he will let me know if I’m shooting too much. He didn’t say anything so I kept shooting.”
“The kids played their hearts out,” Smith said. “I had nine guys out on the court today and every one of them I was just thrilled to death with how they played. … Their energy and their heart. We’ve just got to get a lot smarter on the defensive end.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clearview 78, EC 69
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (69): Angelo Cruz 2-9 0-0 5, Daniel Whitacre 6-13 1-2 14, D.J. Graham 3-5 5-6 11, Connor Riddell 1-2 1-2 4, John Stursa 2-6 6-8 10, Cory Strasko 0-1 1-4 1, Justin Taylor 3-5 0-1 6, Xavier Bennett 4-7 2-2 10, Ceeven Shelton 3-7 0-0 6. Totals 24-55 16-25 69.
CLEARVIEW (78): Gerrell Williams 6-9 6-10 18, Chad Anderson 0-0 0-2 0, Eric Burkey 0-7 7-8 7, Clifton Brown 8-14 2-2 18, Daimon Knowles 8-13 5-5 26, Jason Young 3-5 1-2 7, Caleb Branscum 0-2 0-0 0, Darin Sturgill 1-7 0-0 3. Totals 26-57 21-29 78.
Elyria Catholic 19 22 9 19 — 69
Clearview 17 16 25 20 — 78
3-pointers — Elyria Catholic: Cruz, Whitacre, Riddell, Clearview: Knowles 5, Sturgill. Rebounds — Elyria Catholic 23 (Stursa 6), Clearview 31 (Williams 10). Turnovers — Elyria Catholic 12, Clearview 13. Total fouls — Elyria Catholic 18, Clearview 15. Fouled out — Riddell.
Junior varsity — Elyria Catholic, 60-37.