ELYRIA — Elyria Catholic kept handing North Ridgeville chances, but the Rangers kept handing them back.
The Panthers missed seven of eight free throws in the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter, but the Rangers failed to turn those misses into points at the other end, missing their final three shots from the field and turning the ball over once in a 51-46 Panthers’ victory at The Coliseum.
“That’s experience, that’s our senior class stepping up and putting us into what we need to be in so that we can win,” Rangers coach Bryan Morgan said of his team coming up short at the end. “Right now we don’t have a lot of guys that know how to do it.
“We didn’t have a lot of experience doing it last year, and this is just the second year of remodeling this program. It’s pretty evident in the last two games that we struggle to make plays at the end.”
A James Tirbaso free throw gave Elyria Catholic a 14-point lead at 38-24 with 2:14 remaining in the third quarter, but North Ridgeville ended the third and started the fourth on a 14-4 run to cut the Panthers’ lead to 42-38 with 5:49 left in the game.
Elyria Catholic (3-2, 3-1 West Shore Conference) missed a pair of free throws over the next 2:47 to allow the Rangers to reel them in and eventually tie the game at 44 on a Jordan Montgomery basket.
“You have to give Ridgeville a lot of credit,” Panthers coach Phil Kuchta said. “Yes, if we made our foul shots it would have been easier, but we’re just not doing what we’re supposed to be doing in the second half. We play well, get to a certain comfort level, then come apart.”
Ceeven Shelton, who ended the game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, hit five of six free throws to give the Panthers a 49-44 lead with 1:04 left in the game.
After Darin Guice split a pair from the line with 48.6 left, DeMario McCall hit a short jumper to pull the Rangers within four at 50-46.
With 30 seconds remaining, Shelton missed a pair of free throws but Jeremy Holley grabbed the offensive rebound and flipped the ball to Jacob Kuchta, who was fouled. Kuchta split a pair with :23.1 left, but the Rangers threw the ball away at the other end.
Jeremy Holley was grabbed after a steal and missed a pair with 15.2 showing on the clock. The Rangers missed a 3-pointer at the other end and Holley, after grabbing his game-high 15th rebound, was fouled with 4.4 seconds remaining.
He missed both, but the Rangers missed another three as the final horn sounded.
“Every game this year we’ve had a 10- to 12-point lead, and for some reason just come unglued,” Kuchta said. “We’re looking for that leadership and that cohesiveness. I like our guys … they play hard and get after it. We’ve just got to get better.
“We certainly missed way too many from the foul line.”
Nolan Freeman paced the Rangers (2-4, 1-3) with eight points. Nine different North Ridgeville players scored points.
“We’re pretty deep this year and if somebody isn’t getting it done we can go to somebody else,” Morgan said. “We’ve had double-digit deficits going into fourth quarters before, and we’re to the point now where we’re playing defense well enough that we can get back into games.”
Holley led the Panthers with a game-high 16 points while Shelton added 15, nine rebounds and six assists.
“I attacked the basket more and got to the free throw line,” Shelton said. “The first few games I really haven’t been attacking the basket like the coaches wanted me to and like I should have been.
“When I was penetrating I realized they were double-teaming me. Jeremy’s man was helping on me, too, so I was dishing it to him because he’s a great finisher.”
Kuchta liked what he saw from Shelton.
“That was his best game,” the coach said. “Ceeven was aggressive and he wanted it right from the start. We need a lot more of that from Ceeven to open things up and give us that third threat consistently. He’s capable of that night in, night out. He’s a very versatile player that can play at three or four different positions. That’s a good thing.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Elyria Catholic 51, North Ridgeville 46
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (46): Matt Clark 1-1-4, DeMario McCall 1-0-2, Dennis Millgard 3-0-7, Tyler Arnold 2-2-6, Nolan Freeman 3-1-8, Chad Kisel 1-0-3, Tyler Rowe 2-0-6, Jordan Montgomery 3-0-6, Nathan Colbert 2-0-4, Braylon King 0-0-0. Totals 18-4-46.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (51): D.J. Graham 1-0-2, Conner Riddell 1-1-4, Ceevan Shelton 5-5-15, Jeremy Holley 7-2-16, Jacob Kuchta 2-1-5, Deangelo Cruz 0-0-0, James Tirbaso, Drew Kaplan 0-0-0, Darin Guice 1-1-4, Cole Virgin 0-0-0. Totals 19-11-51.
North Ridgeville 9 11 11 15 — 46
Elyria Catholic 14 12 14 11 — 51
Three-point goals: North Ridgeville 6-26 (Rowe 2, Clark, Millgard, Freeman, Kisel), Elyria Catholic 2-17 (Riddell, Guice). Field goals: North Ridgeville 18-57 (31.5 percent), Elyria Catholic 19-53 (35.8 percent). Free throws: North Ridgeville 4-6 (66.7 percent), Elyria Catholic 11-27 (40.7 percent). Rebounds: North Ridgeville 37 (Millgard 8), Elyria Catholic 46 (Holley 15). Turnovers: North Ridgeville 9, Elyria Catholic 10. Total fouls: North Ridgeville 17, Elyria Catholic 15. Fouled out: None.
Junior varsity: North Ridgeville, 51-49 (OT).