AVON — Jeremy Holley grabbed 17 rebounds Friday as Elyria Catholic battled Avon in a West Shore Conference game.
None were as big as the one he corralled off of a Ceeven Shelton miss with the final seconds winding down and the Panthers trailing by one.
The 6-foot-6 senior reached high above the rim for the ball, got fouled with 1.3 seconds to play and calmly made a pair of free throws to give Elyria Catholic a 61-60 win.
“It was so loud in here I really couldn’t even think,” Holley said. “I think the loudness actually worked to my advantage. I was able to clear my mind and knocked them down.”
Holley scored 15 of his 21 points and recorded 13 of his 17 rebounds in the second half while helping steady a young Panthers team that saw Avon overcome a 12-point halftime deficit and take the lead on three occasions over the final six minutes.
“Our defense let us down in the second half,” Holley said. “They only had 18 points at the half and wound up with 60 points. We know that’s unacceptable.”
Elyria Catholic improved to 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the WSC, while Avon (0-3, 0-3) is still searching for its first win.
In the first half it was sophomore Jacob Kuchta who carried the Panthers, scoring 17 points, including a 4-point play after he was fouled by Johnny Peganoff while connecting on a 3-pointer from the far corner of the court.
Kuchta also scored 21 points.
“Avon came out and was focusing a lot on Jeremy and that allowed me some open looks and I took them,” Kuchta said.
“We’ve been in this situation twice this season already, so we knew we had to just buckle down and make sure we did the little things to win the game. Avon is a good team and a huge rivalry for us so this win is really importance to us. Plus now it gets us back to .500.”
Avon was held scoreless for the first 4:59 of the game until Austin Proudfit hit a 3-pointer for his only points of the game.
The Eagles closed to within four in the second quarter until Kuchta’s 4-point play kicked off a 10-2 Elyria Catholic run to end the half.
In the second half, Avon methodically chipped away at the Panthers’ lead until the Eagles pulled within a point on a Zach Torbert free throw with 1:06 to play in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Avon’s biggest lead was 49-47 after a Michael Smigel jumper with 6:27 left in the game.
“I’m proud of the way we came back in the second half,” Avon coach Kevin Sapara said. “We started making things happen on offense but it’s really tough to come back when you have such a poor first half. Elyria Catholic is a good team, so give them credit for what they did tonight, but I know we have a good team. We’re going to keep working and we will get better.”
With home games coming up next week against North Ridgeville and Lakewood, Elyria Catholic coach Phil Kuchta hopes this win can propel his team back to the top of the WSC standings.
“Every game in the West Shore Conference this year is going to be a tough game,” he said. “This is a big confidence booster for our guys. We are becoming a cohesive team that can go 11 or 12 players deep off the bench and developing some leadership.”
And about the game-winning free throws, the Panthers coach said he never had any doubts.
“Jeremy was in that same position here two years ago and he made them then, too,” Kuchta said. “I was extremely confident in him in that spot. Jeremy is a heck of a player and I know he has the ability to focus and make crucial shots.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria Catholic 61, Avon 60
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (61): D.J. Graham 2-2-6, Kevin Kelley 1-0-3, Angelo Cruz 1-0-3, Conner Riddell 1-0-2, Ceeven Shelton 0-1-1, Jeremy Holley 6-9-21, Jacob Kuchta 6-7-21, James Tirbaso 2-0-4. Totals 19-19-61.
AVON (60): Dan Durrin 1-2-4, Brian Kelly 4-4-12, Michael Smigel 3-2-9, Johnny Peganoff 1-4-6, Austin Proudfit 1-0-3, Zach Torbert 1-4-6, Brad Sprecher 1-0-3, Jordan Lawrence 1-0-2, Jeffrey Laraway 5-3-15. Totals 18-19-60.
Elyria Catholic 7 11 26 16 — 60
Avon 12 18 15 16 — 61
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic (Kuchta 2, Kelley, Cruz); Avon (Laraway 2, Smigel, Prudfit, Sprecher). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 19-44 (43 percent), Avon 18-60 (30 percent). Free throws: Elyria Catholic 19-23 (83 percent), Avon 19-27 (70 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 42, Avon 33. Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 15, Avon 8. Total fouls: Elyria Catholic 21, Avon 20. Fouled Out: Riddell.
Junior varsity: Elyria Catholic, 55-49.