ELYRIA — Elyria Catholic spent all Friday night digging itself out of a big mess.
It was not stranded in the heavy snow that fell at the corner of Gulf and Poplar … the mess was inside, and it was one of the Panthers’ own making.
Elyria Catholic put itself in an 18-point hole at halftime and, despite having three chances to tie or take the lead late in the game, could not fight out of the deficit, falling 61-56 to Vermilion in a key West Shore Conference game.
Forrest Boyd, Vermilion’s 6-foot-5 senior center, dominated in the first half as the Sailors built a big lead. Boyd, finding the dead spots in the Panthers’ 2-3 zone, scored 16 points and grabbed four rebounds. He hit a pair of 3-pointers and hit seven of the 11 shots he took from the floor.
As a team, Vermilion (9-2, 7-1) ate up the Elyria Catholic zone in the first two periods, shooting 17-for-29 (58.6 percent) from the floor. The Sailors also dominated defensively, holding the Panthers to 36 percent from the floor (9-for-25) in building a 40-22 halftime lead.
“We played incredible defense, especially in the first half,” Boyd said. “(Offensively) we were getting a lot of doubles that created a lot of easy looks while they were running that zone. The guards were able to find me on the baseline to get a lot of easy buckets.”
In the third quarter, Jeremy Holley, the Panthers’ 6-6 senior center, put on a show, almost single-handedly pulling his team back into the game. Holley scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the period. Seven of his rebounds came on the offensive end, and after the third quarter Elyria Catholic had cut Vermilion’s lead to 51-41.
“He’s a really good player,” Boyd said of Holley. “He’s really hard to guard underneath. I had to keep getting breaks in the beginning because he’s so strong and it’s hard to get position on him and keep that position.”
The Panthers (7-7, 4-4) kept coming in the fourth quarter. They opened the quarter on a 9-1 run to cut the lead to 52-50 with 5:15 left.
Cameron Kuhn scored four straight points for the Sailors to push the lead to 56-50, but Holley answered with a pair of baskets to cut it to 56-54 at the 3:07 mark.
After that, the Panthers had three chances to tie or take the lead. First they threw the ball away. After a D.J. Graham steal, Ceeven Shelton missed an open 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:40 remaining. Vermilion turned the ball over again on a Kuhn travel, but Conner Riddell missed a pair of free throws at the 2:12 mark.
Boyd then scored a pair of baskets to put the game away.
“We knew Elyria Catholic was way too good a basketball team not to make a big run,” Vermilion coach Kurt Habermehl said. “We were hoping to limit it a little bit. I thought we got a little bit passive offensively in the second half, and that’s my fault. We pulled the ball out a little bit and got a little stagnant on offense.”
Elyria Catholic coach Phil Kuchta took the blame for the loss.
“I did a poor job of getting those guys ready,” he said. “I don’t want to say they weren’t ready to play but, obviously, the first half we were not who we thought we were. Give Vermilion a lot of credit. We thought we were going to come out and take the fight to them. … Tthey came out and took the fight to us. They were the better team for four quarters.”
Holley finished the game with game-highs in points (29) and rebounds (21).
“He’s so big and strong, and once he gets on the block you just have to hope he misses,” Habermehl said. “I thought late in the game we did a pretty good job of not fouling him and trying to make him work a little bit. Give him a lot of credit.”
Boyd led the Sailors with 25 points and seven rebounds while Kuhn finished with 15. Kyle Nader scored 14 points and handed out 11 assists.
“Kyle had a great game passing the basketball,” Habermehl said. “He found open men all night and Forrest was able to finish when he got the looks.”
The Panthers return to action tonight at crosstown rival Elyria. The game will tip at 7:30.
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vermilion 61, Elyria Catholic 56
VERMILION (61): Forrest Boyd 10-3-25, Aaron Dawson 2-0-4, Kyle Nader 6-2-14, Seth Konrad 0-0-0, Cameron Kuhn 4-5-15, Ross Lewis 1-0-3, Alex Nunn 0-0-0, Zach Myracle 0-0-0, Nick Prenatt 0-0-0. Totals 23-9-61.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (56): D.J. Graham 1-0-2, Kevin Kelley 1-0-3, Conner Riddell 2-2-6, Jeremy Holley 12-5-29, Jacob Kuchta 2-4-9, Ceeven Shelton 2-1-5, Darin Guice 0-0-0, Drew Kaplan 0-0-0, Angelo Cruz 1-0-2, Cole Virgin 0-0-0. James Tirbaso 0-0-0. Totals 21-12-56.
Vermilion 17 23 11 10 — 61
Elyria Catholic 11 11 19 15 — 56
Three-point goals: Vermilion 5-11 (Boyd 2, Kuhn 2, Lewis), Elyria Catholic 2-17 (Kelley, Kuchta). Field goals: Vermilion 23-46 (50 percent), Elyria Catholic 21-52 (40.3 percent). Free throws: Vermilion 9-21 (42.8 percent), Elyria Catholic 12-20 (60 percent). Rebounds: Vermilion 28 (Boyd 7), Elyria Catholic 44 (Holley 21). Turnovers: Vermilion 15, Elyria Catholic 16. Total fouls: Vermilion 17, Elyria Catholic 15. Fouled out: Graham.