ELYRIA — A whale of a game as Elyria High and Elyria Catholic met to decide city bragging rights came down to one big difference.
The Pioneers had Isaiah Walton.
Walton not only rebounded his miss into what turned out to be the winning basket with 18 seconds left, he made the heads-up play at the other end when he bounced the ball off Elyria Catholic’s Jeremy Holley to save possession and help eat up valuable time. Elyria came away the winner, 60-59, in the 19th renewal of the “Battle of Elyria.” The Pioneers have won 17 times.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Walton, who scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. “I just love everybody. Everybody’s been playing hard. Everybody’s been stepping up. I couldn’t do without them.”
It’s been a troubling week for the Pioneers, who lost two key players just before tipping off against Mayfield on Jan. 10. But with Walton and his teammates, Elyria is 10-3 on the year. EC is 7-8.
“We wrote two things on the board — find a way and toughness,” Elyria coach Brett Larrick said. “I’ll tell you what, our guys have done it for eight days. I just told them in the locker room, that’s the most proud I’ve been of a group. How they’ve handled the adversity and the situation.”
“All the 50-50 balls, we were just playing really tough,” Walton said. “Playing mentally smart. That’s what got us the win.”
“Isaiah is as tough as they come,” EC coach Phil Kuchta said. “That was a great game. I thought Elyria did a great job of slowing the game down. Who’d have thought that Elyria would want to slow the game down?”
The Panthers started as though they were going to run the Pioneers out of their own gym. EC outraced Elyria down the court and built a 25-13 advantage after a quarter. When Angelo Cruz buried a 3-pointer from the left baseline with 2:05 left in the half, the lead was 30-20, but Elyria closed out the half on a 12-0 run.
“We picked up the intensity,” said Hunter Parsh, who contributed 15 huge points, his best effort in several games. “I don’t know if it had to do with the rivalry. It was a great second half and second quarter.”
The Pioneers sat back in a zone, trying to keep the ball out of the hands of Holley, a 6-foot-6 senior. Holley did score 10 points and pull in 15 rebounds, but Elyria kept him from dominating the glass. Holley took only eight shots from the field, making five.
With 5.6 seconds left, Walton missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Elyria had two fouls to give before putting the Panthers in the bonus.
Trenell OIiver, who scored 12 points and had six rebounds, fouled Ceevan Shelton on the sideline, leaving 2.6 remaining. Jacob Kuchta inbounded the ball to Connor Riddell, but the Pioneers had the play covered and Riddell’s attempt from well beyond his range missed.
“We were either going to go to Ceevan or do the old Craig Ehlo — back-to-the-inbounder (play),” Kuchta said of the final possession. “We didn’t get the shot we wanted. (Elyria’s defense) messed that up. My hat’s off to Elyria.”
Jacob Kuchta led EC with 19 points and Shelton added 14, but everyone on the floor deserves a ton of credit for turning in an outstanding effort.
“We’re at Week 1 of the season again with some of the adjustments we’re making,” Larrick said. “We haven’t played that much zone and those were two new ones. It’s a credit to our kids. We’ve talked trust and togetherness. They’ve trusted what we’re doing, they’ve trusted each other.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria 60, Elyria Catholic 59
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (59): DJ Graham 0-0-0, Conner Riddell 2-0-6, Ceevan Shelton 6-0-14, Jeremy Holley 5-0-10, Jacob Kuchta 7-0-19, Kevin Kelley 1-0-3, Angelo Cruz 1-0-3, Darin Guice 1-0-2, James Tirbaso 1-0-2, Drew Kaplan 0-0-0. Totals 24-0-59.
ELYRIA (60): Hunter Parsh 5-2-15, Isaiah Walton 10-7-27, Anthony Duckett 2-2-6, Trenell Oliver 4-4-12, AJ Johnson 0-0-0, Marquise Dalton 0-0-0, Chris Jameson 0-0-0, Chris Yates 0-0-0. Totals 21-15-60.
Elyria Catholic 25 5 9 20 — 59
Elyria 13 19 13 15 — 60
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 11-21 (Kuchta 5, Riddell 2, Shelton 2, Kelley, Cruz), Elyria 3-10 (Parsh 3). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 24-60 (40 percent), Elyria 21-49 (43 percent). Free throws: Elyria Catholic 0-4 (0 percent), Elyria 15-24 (62.5 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 35 (Holley 15), Elyria 30 (Walton 10). Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 12, Elyria 10.
Fouls: Elyria Catholic 16, Elyria 11. Fouled Out: Graham.
Junior varsity: Elyria, 52-44.