VERMILION — Even if you have the most powerful cannon in the world, if you can’t figure out how to load it you aren’t going to win many battles.
Elyria Catholic learned that lesson Friday in a 60-54 loss to Vermilion in the West Shore Conference opener for both teams.
Through three quarters, Panthers’ 6-foot-6 senior Jeremy Holley center was dominant in the post. He scored 18 of his team-high 22 points in the first three periods, and his putback of a Ceeven Shelton miss with 1:02 remaining in the third lifted Elyria Catholic (0-2, 0-1 WSC) to a 47-39 lead.
In the final period, however, the Panthers stopped getting the ball to Holley down low.
It wasn’t by choice.
Vermilion (3-0, 1-0) increased the defensive pressure on the Panthers’ guards out high, forcing nine fourth-quarter turnovers to take the lead and, eventually, the victory.
“Vermilion did a nice job of pressuring our guards, and they took us out of what we really wanted to do,” Elyria Catholic coach Phil Kuchta said. “We have to get stronger with the basketball and correct the mistakes we made, but Vermilion really took us out of what we wanted to do. That’s a sign of a good defense.”
The Sailors ended the third quarter and opened the fourth on a 9-0 run to take a 48-47 lead at the 3:54 mark of the fourth quarter. The teams traded baskets until Angelo Cruz nailed a 3-pointer at the 3:07 mark to give the Panthers a 52-50 lead.
Vermilion then closed the game on a 10-2 run.
Cameron Kuhn scored 27 points and had nine steals for Vermilion. His twisting jumper at the 4:45 mark of the first quarter gave him 1,000 career points. He knew there was a good chance he would pass that milestone against the Panthers, and Sailors coach Kurt Habermehl had him prepared.
“Earlier today Coach told me not to let it get to my head … to play my game,” Kuhn said of not forcing things. “So that’s what I did and it just came to me tonight.”
Though the points were nice, Habermehl especially liked Kuhn’s defense.
“Cameron knows I’m not very nice to him if he doesn’t play defense,” Habermehl said. “He’s a well-rounded player that’s going to work on everything you tell him to. He also knows he can get some easy points off his defense because he can get some steals that lead to layups.”
Which is why, after watching Holley hit 10 of 14 shots through three periods, Habermehl told his guards to get aggressive on the defensive end. He knew if his guards could do the job out top he wouldn’t have to worry too much about what was going on down low.
“Jeremy was killing us in the first half,” Habermehl said. “Our ball pressure prevented them from getting him the ball in the second half and Forrest Boyd and Nick Prenatt did a fantastic job of playing defense in the second half in the post.”
Despite opening the season with a pair of losses, Kuchta likes what he has seen from his Panthers. He knows his team can fix what has thus far been broken.
“Everything that’s taking place is self-inflicted,” Kuchta said. “We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. I love my team. We take it one game at a time … that’s our approach. We’re not worried about winning anything but the next game.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vermilion 60, Elyria Catholic 54
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (54): Jeremy Holley 11-0-22, Jacob Kuchta 4-2-13, Ceeven Shelton 1-2-5, D.J. Graham 3-0-6, Angelo Cruz 2-0-6, Cole Virgin 1-0-2, Conner Riddell 0-0-0, James Tirbaso 0-0-0, Drew Kaplan 0-0-0, Darin Guice 0-0-0. Totals 23-4-54.
VERMILION (60): Forrest Boyd 4-2-10, Kyle Nader 2-3-8, Cameron Kuhn 10-7-27, Aaron Dawson 0-1-1, Seth Konrad 3-1-7, Ross Lewis 2-0-5, Nick Prenatt 0-0-0, Alex Nunn 0-0-0, Zach Myracle 0-0-0. Totals 21-14-60.
Elyria Catholic 20 16 11 7 — 54
Vermilion 18 11 12 19 — 60
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 6-14 (Kuchta 3, Cruz 2, Shelton), Vermilion 4-14 (Kuhn 2, Nader, Lewis). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 23-41(56 percent), Vermilion 21-48 (43.7 percent); Free throws: Elyria Catholic 4-6 (66.7 percent), Vermilion 14-20 (70 percent); Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 28 (Holley 8), Vermilion 19 (Nader 5). Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 23, Vermilion 11. Total fouls: Elyria Catholic 20, Vermilion 12. Fouled out: Shelton, Kuchta.