ELYRIA — With the postseason tournament two weeks down the road, Elyria Catholic coach Phil Kuchta hopes his Panthers can get on some kind of a roll.
Maybe they started one last night with a 59-51 victory over Trinity at The Coliseum.
Junior D.J. Graham scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the first half and Elyria Catholic shot a blistering 56.4 percent from the floor in the win. The Panthers outscored the Trojans 15-5 in the final 6:16.
Brevin Dye’s short jumper in the lane gave Trinity a 46-44 lead early in the fourth, but the Panthers turned up the defensive pressure and held the Trojans scoreless for a 5:31 stretch to pull away.
“Defensively, in the fourth quarter, we finally stepped up,” Kuchta said. “We had about five possessions in a row where we got stops, and we haven’t always done that this year. That was nice to see from our guys.
“For us to get that many stops in a row was encouraging. We’ve been preaching defense and rebounding with great possessions on offense. Those things are going to help us win games, especially come tournament time. We’re just trying to get on a roll, win one at a time and see what happens.”
Graham was unstoppable early. He scored 11 of the Panthers’ first 14 points and did not miss a shot until late in the third quarter. He finished 8-of-9 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the line.
“I thought he carried us in the first half offensively through attacking the basket,” Kuchta said of Graham. “He was also the anchor of our defense out front on their guards. He and Kevin Kelley did a nice job.
“They switched off a couple of screens and defended the pick-and-roll well.”
Graham said he had plenty of help.
“I wanted to be aggressive and do whatever it took to get the team a victory,” he said. “We’ve been having tough times lately and this one was important. I give all the credit to my team tonight for getting me open and getting me the ball.”
Trojans’ coach Mick Fecko thought his team lacked patience … especially late in the game.
“We got a little impatient offensively,” Fecko said of his team’s fourth-quarter dry spell. “Our game plan was to show some patience offensively because we felt the more we worked the ball the better our shot would be. We looked a little tired and guys were getting lazy out there, so we started jacking up shots that we probably shouldn’t have taken. That took us right out of our offense.”
Senior Jeremy Holley scored 18 points and added 12 rebounds for the Panthers.
Senior Cory Haire paced Trinity with 15 points.
ALUMNI ALERT: During Saturday’s game against New London, Elyria Catholic will honor former players from Elyria Catholic and Lorain Catholic. All former players from both schools are welcome. There will be a meet-and-greet at 5:30 p.m. and a pregame ceremony to honor all alumni in attendance. Former Panthers coach Bob Guinta will be the honorary coach for the varsity game, which is scheduled to tip off at 7:30.
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria Catholic 59, Trinity 51
TRINITY (51): Jake Gerrick 4-1-11, Kyle McSweeney 4-0-8, Cory Haire 5-2-15, Brett Dawson 0-0-0, Kevin Wodzisz 5-1-11, Matt Iacobucci 0-0-0, Brevin Dye 3-0-6, Griffin Filippi 0-0-0, Pat Sobolewski 0-0-0. Totals 21-4-51.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (59): D.J. Graham 8-3-20, Kevin Kelley 2-0-6, Drew Kaplan 0-0-0, Jacob Kuchta 3-1-10, James Tirbaso 1-0-2, Jeremy Holley 7-4-18, Conner Riddell 1-1-3, Cole Virgin 0-0-0, Darin Guice 0-0-0, Colden Schemmel 0-0-0. Totals 22-9-59.
Trinity 14 9 19 9 — 51
Elyria Catholic 18 9 15 17 — 59
Three-point goals: Trinity 5-19 (Haire 3, Gerrick 2), Elyria Catholic 6-13 (Kuchta 3, Kelley 2, Graham). Field goals: Trinity 21-53 (39.6 percent), Elyria Catholic 22-39 (56.4 percent). Free throws: Trinity 4-7 (57.1 percent), Elyria Catholic 9-14 (64.2 percent). Rebounds: 20 (Fillipi 4), Elyria Catholic 36 (Holley 12). Turnovers: Trinity 19, Elyria Catholic 25. Total fouls: Trinity 15, Elyria Catholic 10.
Junior varsity: Elyria Catholic, 39-37