May 31, 2016


Boys Basketball: Elyria Catholic shocks Elyria with 77-75 victory, only its 2nd in city series

ELYRIA — For only the second time in 18 meetings, Elyria Catholic turned the tables on Elyria High, winning 77-75 in a terrific game at the Coliseum on Saturday night.
“I told the guys at halftime there were 15 guys who actually believed that we could win this game,” EC coach Jason Smith said. “They were in that huddle. Even our fans — they’re here to support us — but they were skeptical about us winning coming into it. I just kept preaching, ‘We’re making history tonight. We’re making history.’
“I said this isn’t really a rivalry until we start beating them.”
Elyria Catholic, with four straight wins, evened its mark at 7-7. Elyria lost for only the third time in 14 games.
It was EC’s first win in the series since an 89-83 overtime thriller in the 2001 Holiday Classic at Elyria High’s old gym. Smith played a part in that upset as well, scoring eight points for EC.
The rivalry dates back to the old Class A tournament when Elyria won the first meeting, 68-51 at Baldwin Wallace in 1954.
“Elyria is bigger, faster, stronger than us,” Smith said. “No question about it. We needed to play smarter than them. That started from inbounding the ball from 90 feet away.
“Cory Strasko and D.J. Graham did an absolutely amazing job bringing the ball up for us. We had guys slashing to the middle. The best part about it, we not only broke their pressure, we got easy baskets off it.”
“Honestly, I’ve never been this happy,” said 6-foot-5 senior Dan Whitacre, who had two clutch free throws to finish the scoring. “This is something we dreamed about at the beginning of the season. We circled it on the calendar. We played as a team.”
The win capped a great week for the Panthers.
“We got a big win on Tuesday (Oberlin) and we got a win (Friday at Vermilion),” senior guard Tyler Riddell said. “We definitely didn’t want to look over those two games. We came in (Saturday morning) and prepared for it. This win streak has got us pumped. I’m just glad we got this win.”
Tyler Riddell led the way with 18 points and Whitacre added 17, but it was the spark off the bench by junior Conner Riddell that may have keyed the upset. Conner has struggled with his free throws but he sank five of six in the first half when EC proved it could play with Elyria.
“Give Jason’s kids credit,” Elyria coach Brett Larrick said. “They played harder than we did. They executed better than we did. They handled our pressure. We fouled too much. We put them at the free throw line too much the first half. They did a nice job handling the pressure, making the passes.”
Elyria did cause 15 turnovers, but seven came in the final quarter when the Pioneers tried to rally from as many as 10 points down late in the third quarter. Four Pioneers — Kody Bender, Isaiah Walton, Ronnie Smith and Dontae Dukes — finished the game with four fouls. Bender finished with 20 points, Walton 19 and Smith 16.
Two free throws by Ceevan Shelton put the Panthers up 73-68 with 2:34 to play, and Elyria made a last-ditch effort to pull out the win. Smith hit a 3-pointer and, following two Whitacre free throws, Bender drove hard for a basket to cut the lead to 75-73. Another turnover led to two free throws by Walton to tie the game at 75 with 44.5 seconds left.
Whitacre was fouled by Smith attempting to block his short shot and made both free throws with 37.8 left. Elyria worked the ball down to 18.8 seconds and again to 8.05, calling timeouts to set up its last play.
Walton, the darling of the district tournament and again this year against Westlake with game-winners, tried to get open but EC forced him into an off-balance shot that missed. John Stursa grabbed the rebound as time expired.
“Elyria’s one of the best offensive teams in the county — maybe even the state,” Whitacre said. “Everybody — from coaches down — helped us prepare for this.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or at
Elyria Catholic 77, Elyria 75
ELYRIA (75): Kody Bender 7-5-20, Dontae Dukes 3-0-6, Isaiah Walton 7-2-19, Ronnie Smith 6-1-16, A.J. Johnson 0-0-0, Tavon Kurtz 0-0-0, Da’Jaun Glover 0-0-0, Jarred Schultz 4-0-9, Hunter Parsh 1-0-3, Anthony Duckett 1-0-2. Totals 29-8-75.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (77): Cory Strasko 2-2-7, Daniel Whitacre 6-4-17, Tyler Riddell 6-3-18, John Stursa 3-2-8, Ceevan Shelton 2-3-7, Xavier Bennett 4-1-9, DJ Graham 2-0-4, Conner Riddell 1-5-7. Totals 26-20-77.
Elyria    24    19    9    23    —    75
Elyria Catholic    25    22    13    17    —    77
Three-point goals: Elyria 9-30 (Walton 3, Smith 3, Bender, Schultz, Parsh), Elyria Catholic 5-11 (T.Rydell 3, Strasko, Whitacre). Field goals: Elyria 29-66 (44 percent), Elyria Catholic 26-49 (53 percent). Free throws: Elyria 8-9 (88 percent), Elyria Catholic 20-24 (83 percent). Rebounds: Elyria 28 (Schultz 11), Elyria Catholic 34 (Stursa 6). Turnovers: Elyria 13, Elyria Catholic 15. Total fouls: Elyria 20, Elyria Catholic 11. Fouled Out: None.
Junior varsity: Elyria, 55-41.