His Panthers trailed by six points and Lakewood had possession. Turns out Smith and Elyria Catholic had the Rangers right where they wanted them.
Senior guard Cory Strasko’s tip-in off a missed 3-pointer with three seconds left capped a furious Elyria Catholic comeback and gave the Panthers a 47-46 victory in West Shore Conference action.
“These guys wanted it, they wanted it so bad,” Smith said of the Panthers, who improved to 10-8 overall, 7-5 in the league. “Even when we were down and in the huddle, I could see it in their eyes. They were so hungry.”
With 1:32 remaining, Nate Silver gave Lakewood (12-6, 9-3) a 44-38 lead with a layup. The Panthers immediately turned the ball over, forcing Smith to take a timeout to calm his team down.
When action resumed, Elyria Catholic fouled Tyshawn Goolsby to send him to the line for a one-and-one. He missed, and Danny Whitacre scored in the lane with 1:06 left to cut the lead to 44-40.
The Panthers again fouled Goolsby, who got two free throws because it was EC’s 10th foul of the half. Goolsby missed both and Whitacre again grabbed the rebound, his game-high 12th, but Elyria Catholic turned the ball over with less than a minute showing on the clock.
The Rangers ran a press-break play and Silver broke free, hitting a layup to push the Lakewood lead back to 46-40.
The Rangers would not score again.
With 34.1 seconds left on the clock, Strasko converted a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 46-42 before the Rangers turned the ball over on an errant inbounds pass.
Sophomore guard D.J. Graham found Tyler Riddell in the left corner for an open 3-pointer that found nothing but the bottom of the net and suddenly the Panthers trailed just 46-45 with 26.3 seconds left.
After Shawn McDonald missed two more free throws for the Rangers, EC ran most of the clock down before Riddell shot a 3-pointer from the right corner. It missed, but Strasko was right underneath for the putback that gave Elyria Catholic its first lead since 35 seconds into the third quarter.
Lakewood set up a play with three seconds left, but Graham stripped the ball from Mike Angers and tossed it into the air as the final horn sounded.
The Rangers missed six free throws in the final 1:17 and were just 10-of-21 from the line for the game.
“These kinds of games, if you miss your free throws anything can happen,” Smith said.
Graham anticipated where Angers wanted to go on the final play.
“I wanted to get in front of him and take the ball,” he said. “I knew if he kept the ball in front of him I was going to take it. I beat him to the spot and took it.
“I’m shocked. Still can’t believe it. There are a lot of emotions right now.”
Whitacre led the Panthers with 13 points to go along with his 12 rebounds. Nine of his points came in the first half when Elyria Catholic was struggling to find its offense.
“Early on I was feeling really good,” he said. “I took a deep three and hit it. … That gave me a spark personally and got me going.”
Strasko, who ended the game with 11 points, five assists and four rebounds, said he was fortunate to be in position to make the game-winner.
“We were trying to do whatever we could to win the game,” he said. “It could have been any one of us to get that tip. It was important for us to get the win right there. The ball fell to me and I was in the right place at the right time.”
The Panthers have won nine of their last 10 games and, with the postseason on the horizon, seem to be peaking at the right time.
“We have our seeding Sunday and this win was massive for us,” Smith said. “It gives us so much momentum, to knock off one of the top teams in the conference, another Division I win for us. We can go into the seeding meeting extremely confident.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Elyria Catholic 47, Lakewood 46
LAKEWOOD (46): Mike Angers 0-1-1, Aaron Donahoe 7-0-19, Shawn McDonald 1-3-5, Tyshawn Goolsby 4-0-8, Cameron Silver 3-1-7, Andrew Steele 0-0-0, Nick Porter 1-4-6. Totals 16-9-46.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (47): Cory Strasko 4-2-11, Daniel Whitacre 5-1-13, Tyler Riddell 4-0-10, John Stursa 2-0-4, D.J. Graham 0-0-0, Connor Riddell 1-0-2, Xavier Bennett 0-1-1. Totals 19-4-47.
Lakewood 8 8 15 15 — 46
Elyria Catholic 12 8 11 16 — 47
Three-point goals: Lakewood 5-19 (Donahoe 5), Elyria Catholic 5-13 (Whitacre 2, T. Riddell 2, Strasko); Field goals: Lakewood 16-46 (34.7 percent), Elyria Catholic 19-42 (45.2 percent); Free throws: Lakewood 9-20 (45 percent), Elyria Catholic 4-6 (67 percent); Rebounds: Lakewood 27(Goolsby 9), Elyria Catholic 38 (Whitacre 12); Turnovers: Lakewood 12, Elyria Catholic 18; Total fouls: Lakewood 11, Elyria Catholic 16.
Junior varsity: Lakewood, 57-54