OBERLIN — Elyria Catholic coach Phil Kuchta wasn’t thrilled with how his team opened Tuesday night’s non-conference game against Oberlin.
The Phoenix was hanging with EC through the first four minutes before Kuchta decided to use a full-court press.
The press forced Oberlin into 11 first-quarter turnovers and turned what had been a close game into a rout, and the Panthers rolled to a 75-48 victory. The press sparked a 30-2 run, which was capped by 23 unanswered EC points.
“I didn’t like the way our guys started out, and give Oberlin credit for that,” Kuchta said. “They hit some shots and they took away our post play early on in the game. So it took us a while to get going. But once we got going, I like the way our guys got up on people, defended the ball with on-the-ball pressure, and really picked their pace up a little bit.”
EC (7-3) used that run to turn what had been a 9-6 lead into a 39-8 lead with 3:30 left in the first half. It erupted for 29 first quarter points, led by eight points by Conner Riddell and five apiece by Angelo Cruz and Jacob Kuchta.
Henry Smith III’s basket with 1:40 remaining in the half was Oberlin’s (4-8) first points since a layup by Devante Hougland at the 2:40 mark of the first quarter, ending a 10-minute drought. A layup by D.J. Graham with three seconds remaining in the half gave EC a 46-12 halftime lead.
“Oberlin is a tough team and I have a lot of respect for Coach Kurt (Russell),” Kuchta said. “Their program typically gets better as the season goes on, and they’ve got some athletes and some talent. We did some things well to start out with and we got on a roll and kept going from there.”
Sophomore Jacob Kuchta and 6-foot-6 senior Jeremy Holley led the way with 16 points apiece for the Panthers, which played all 15 players who dressed and had 13 of them score.
Holley shot 8-for-9 from the floor, including 5-of-6 in the first half en route to 10 points. His performance helped EC shoot 61 percent from the floor (19-of-31) in the first half and 55 percent (33-of-60) for the game.
“It was a lot of fun,” Holley said. “We respect Oberlin as a team. We knew they had some players that could hurt us. We saw our press as a strength for us. We knew we could press them and give them trouble, and we did that. Our game plan worked perfectly.”
With EC’s lead up to 54-24 with four minutes left in the third quarter, Kuchta sat his starters for the remainder of the game. He played four sophomores and a junior — who had yet to play — during the fourth quarter, and they played very well.
“That was the first time we had a seat in the third quarter for a good reason,” Holley said. “My freshman year, we had some games that were the other way around, so it was nice to be on the winning side of it.”
Ceeven Shelton added 10 points off the bench, while Riddell finished with eight to pace a balanced scoring effort for EC.
For Oberlin, Malcolm Allen led the way with 12 points.
“It was one of those games where EC came out with so much intensity and we just didn’t match it as well,” Russell said. “I think with our young guys, they got frustrated because what we were trying to do wasn’t working. I give EC all the credit. I thought they played a heck of a game tonight.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria Catholic 75, Oberlin 48
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (75): Jeremy Holley 8-0-16, Jacob Kuchta 6-2-16, Conner Riddell 3-0-8, D.J. Graham 1-0-2, Kevin Kelley 0-0-0, Ceeven Shelton 4-2-10, Angelo Cruz 2-0-5, Darin Guice 2-0-4, Patrick Orsagos 2-0-4, Brian Duffield 2-0-4, Drew Kaplan 1-0-2, Cole Virgin 1-0-2, Noah Bland 1-0-2, James Tirbaso 0-0-0, Colden Schemmel 0-0-0. Totals 33-4-75.
OBERLIN (48): Malcolm Allen 5-0-12, Devante Hougland 2-1-5, Charles Lewis 1-2-4, Marvin Jackson 1-0-2, Henry Smith III 1-0-2, Dante LaRiccia 3-0-7, Donald Johnson 2-2-6, Zion Hicks 1-2-5, Mark Robinson 1-1-3, Jae’Lin Moore 1-0-2, Sam Levine 0-0-0, David Payne 0-0-0. Totals 18-8-48.
Elyria Catholic 29 17 17 12 — 75
Oberlin 8 4 20 16 — 48
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 5-15 (Kuchta 2, Riddell 2, Cruz), Oberlin 4-10 (Allen 2, Hicks, LaRiccia). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 33-60 (55 percent), Oberlin 18-47 (38 percent). Free throws: Elyria Catholic 4-7 (57 percent), Oberlin 8-13 (62 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 42 (Tirbaso 6, Guice 6), Oberlin 23 (Five with 3). Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 22, Oberlin 25.