The Panthers didn’t wait that long Tuesday night, as they outscored the Falcons 27-15 in the second quarter and largely coasted to a 69-53 victory in a Division III sectional opener.
“We knew that we didn’t want them hanging around,” said Daniel Whitacre, who led all scorers with 18 points. “In the tournament you never want to let another team hang around because anything can happen.
“We came out tonight, got the win and now can focus on our next game.”
That will be Friday night at 7:30 when the Panthers (12-11) face Northwestern in the sectional final at Wooster High School.
If EC can repeat its second-quarter performance from Tuesday, it could be in for a long tournament run.
Holding a 9-8 lead at the start of the second quarter, EC capitalized on Hillsdale’s inability to protect the ball. The Falcons (4-19) turned over the ball on their first seven possessions of the quarter, and the Panthers made them pay. They scored nine straight points, capped by a Conner Riddell 3-pointer, to push the lead to 18-8 with 5:24 left in the half.
Elyria Catholic wasn’t done.
A technical on the Hillsdale bench added another two points before Hillsdale stopped the run with a pair of free throws by Dilon Strine. A turnover led to another Hillsdale basket that cut the Panthers’ lead to 20-12, and that’s when the Panthers decided to pull away for good.
A John Stursa 3-pointer was the first of three consecutive threes by the Panthers. Whitacre and Ceeven Shelton provided the others to help run the advantage back to double digits at 29-16 at the 2:11 mark.
Hillsdale pulled within 31-23 before a pair of free throws by Cory Strasko and another 3-pointer by Whitacre pushed the lead to 36-23 at the break. Hillsdale never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
“I think we did a great job offensively in the second quarter,” EC coach Jason Smith said. “The first quarter was a little rough, but once we got our legs under us we were OK. The guys did a good job responding to the challenge.”
Tyler Riddell and Stursa also scored in double figures for the Panthers with 12 and 10.
EC 69, Hillsdale 53
HILLSDALE (53): Dilon Strine 4-3-12, Ryan Bee 4-4-12, Dex Rogers 1-4-6, Brandon Reece 2-2-6, Aaron maki 2-0-4, Chaim Nethero 0-4-4 Brock Hays 1-0-3, Josh Kandel 1-0-2, AJ Whitcomb 1-0-2, Jacob Stitzlein 1-0-2. Totals 17-17-53.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (69): Daniel Whitacre 6-4-18, Tyler Riddell 5-0-12, John Stursa 4-0-10, Ceeven Shelton 2-4-9, Conner Riddell 3-1-8, Cory Strasko 1-2-4, Xavier Bennett 2-0-4, DJ Graham 1-0-2, Drew Kaplan 1-0-2. Totals 25-11-69.
Hillsdale 8 15 13 17 — 53
Elyria Catholic 9 27 16 17 — 69
Three-point goals: Hillsdale 2-3 (Hays, Strine), Elyria Catholic 8-19 (Whitacre 2, T. Riddell 2, Stursa 2, C. Riddell, Shelton); Field goals: Hillsdale 17-39 (44 percent), Elyria Catholic 25-58 (43 percent); Free throws: Hillsdale 17-21 (81 percent), Elyria Catholic 11-15 (73 percent); Rebounds: Hillsdale 19 (Bee 5), Elyria Catholic 18 (Shelton 7). Turnovers: Hillsdale 25, Elyria Catholic 10; Total fouls: Hillsdale 12, Elyria Catholic 15; Technical: Hillsdale 1 (Bench); Fouled out: None.
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or at email@example.com.