Cory Strasko’s team-high 18 points on 9-for-10 shooting paced the Panthers to a 68-58 win, but it wasn’t all that easy. The Panthers (11-10) led by 17 at one point in the third quarter but Hillsdale (3-17) fought back to stay within reach.
Panthers coach Jason Smith was concerned about his team’s performance.
“I thought we did a good job pressuring them,” Smith said. “We forced a lot of turnovers (28). But we need to be a little bit smarter on the offensive end. In the first half, I don’t think we made a shot outside of three feet. Everything was all layups, and we kept pulling up for 3-pointers with guys guarding us. We’ve got to get much smarter.
“We pushed the lead to 17, but we got way too comfortable. They hit a three, and you could tell our guys were like, ‘All right, we’ll get it back.’ We’ve got to have that killer mentality when we come into the tournament.”
While Hillsdale hung around through the first half, only trailing 31-24, EC began to pull away in the third quarter. A 9-0 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Tyler Riddell and Daniel Whitacre, made it 41-24. Whitacre scored 10 of his 15 points during that third-quarter surge.
However, the Falcons answered with a 9-2 run to get the lead down to nine, setting the tone for the remainder of the second half.
EC got the lead back to 15 with just over two minutes to go in the game on a pair of John Stursa free throws. However, Hillsdale outscored EC 7-2 over the final two minutes to get the score a little more respectable.
“When we get a 17-point lead, we can’t rest until we get it to 20,” Smith said. “That’s got to be our mentality, and right now, that’s not the case. We can’t be complacent out there, because you give a team a little breathing room, and the momentum can shift.”
Strasko, whose only miss was from 3-point range and scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half, said Hillsdale was tougher than the score suggested.
“They’re a good team,” Strasko said. “It’s nothing we can’t really handle, but it’s going to be a challenge. We’ll have to go into that game knowing that we’re going to have to play our best if we’re going to beat them again.”
Hillsdale’s 6-foot-7 senior Ryan Bee had 19 points and 16 rebounds, while also blocking several shots.
“Overall, I’m happy,” Hillsdale coach Chris Shenberger said. “We play them again on Tuesday. I’m sure Coach Smith was maybe holding a little bit back. We may have been sandbagging a little bit, but I’ll never tell. But he has a nice ballclub. They’re very physical and very athletic, and for the most part, I thought we played right with them tonight. I’m very pleased.”
Elyria Catholic 68, Jeromesville Hillsdale 58
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (68): Cory Strasko 9-0-18, David Whitacre 5-4-15, Tyler Riddell 4-0-10, John Stursa 3-2-8, Ceeven Shelton 2-1-5, Xavier Bennett 3-0-6, D.J. Graham 1-0-2, Conner Riddell 1-0-2, Drew Kaplan 0-2-2, Angelo Cruz 0-0-0, Zack Kama 0-0-0. Totals 28-9-68.
HILLSDALE (58): Ryan Bee 6-7-19, Dex Rogers 6-4-17, Dilon Strine 4-2-11, Chaim Nethero 0-0-0, Josh Kandel 0-0-0, Aaron Maki 2-1-5, Cole Figley 1-0-2, John Seman 0-2-2, Brandon Reece 1-0-2, Payton McFadden 0-0-0, Jacob Stiltzlein 0-0-0, Brock Hays 0-0-0. Totals 20-16-58.
Elyria Catholic 17 14 21 16 — 68
Hillsdale 15 9 17 17 — 58
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 3-14 (T. Riddell 2, Whitacre), Hillsdale 2-5 (Strine, Rogers); Field goals: Elyria Catholic 28-61 (46 percent), Hillsdale 20-46 (44 percent); Free throws: Elyria Catholic 9-14 (65 percent), Hillsdale 16-19 (84 percent); Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 26 (Bennett 5, Whitacre 5), Hillsdale 31 (Bee 16); Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 15, Hillsdale 28; Total fouls: Elyria Catholic 17, Hillsdale 11.
Junior varsity: Elyria Catholic, 62-42.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.