AVON — A couple of not-so-ordinary Joes was all it took for Elyria Catholic to hang around long enough to beat host Avon at its own holiday tournament in the first round Thursday night.
Joe Fitch and Joe Januzzi combined to score 44 points as the Panthers snapped a six-game skid in overtime, 70-68. EC improved to 3-6 on the year, while the Eagles fell to 4-3.
“All the kids just left it on the floor,” said head coach Al Januzzi. “We had a healthy Joe Fitch and with a healthy Joe Fitch playing well, we’re a decent basketball team. The lesson here is — we’ve gone through a six-game losing streak and they stayed positive. They’ve worked hard in practice. I’m happy for them. It’s been a tough stretch of games.”
“I thought it was a total team effort,” said Fitch. “We played as hard as we could. We knew Avon would be a tough game but we knew we could beat them.”
Fitch owned the baseline and the paint as he came alive to score 18 of his 25 points in the second half. The young Januzzi, listed all of 5-foot-9 in the program, scored a dozen of his 19 points in the second half and seemed to take control of EC’s offensive sets in the process.
“He played smart,” said the coach of his son’s effort. “He understands the game. He took good shots. He kept his poise out there. He hit some big buckets for us. Everybody in key moments did some good things.”
“We didn’t get rattled by the pressure,” said the young Januzzi. “We didn’t turn the ball over. We stayed patient.”
EC did just that, but for a good share of Thursday night, it just seemed inevitable that Avon would sooner or later take control and roll away but it never happened. The Eagles were their own worst enemy with missed free throws, inopportune turnovers, and generally weak defense. Avon strung together 11 straight points midway through the second quarter to take a 27-19 lead. EC turned it over a dozen times in the first half but trailed by just 29-26 at intermission.
“I don’t know if we played with enough urgency in the first half,” said Avon coach Jim Baker. “We didn’t guard anybody all night long. The first half we didn’t give up a lot of points but we weren’t playing defense the way we need to play. The two keys were we never got a stop when we needed it and missed free throws.”
Avon hit just half of its 24 free throw attempts. In the first half the Eagles missed eight foul shots. The lead could have been more comfortable entering the second half.
“I think we caught (Avon) on a let-down game after that big win over Vermilion,” said the senior Januzzi. “First of all, hats off to Jim Baker. His team is having such a great year. Marquis (Harrell) just played a terrific, terrific game.”
Harrell certainly did. He popped in 31 points to lead Avon and Mike Carge and Steve Isaac combined for another 30 but the rest of the team scored only seven points. Isaac led Avon’s rebounding effort with 11.
Elyria Catholic had nice contributions from others beside the Joes. Paul Kubuski scored nine points and pulled down nine boards. Kevin Fentner scored nine and had four rebounds. Ryan Taylor and Cody Schuster played outstanding defense. Januzzi’s drive-in lay-up won the game with 10 seconds left and the Panthers played solid defense following a time-out by Avon to stop the last possession.
The Panthers advance to Saturday’s championship against Avon Lake, a 54-43 winner over Keystone in Thursday’s opener. Avon will play the Wildcats in Saturday’s consolation.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (70): Cody Schuster 1-1-3, Joe Fitch 10-5-25, Ryan Taylor 1-0-2, Kevin Fentner 2-5-9, Paul Kubuski 4-1-9, Joe Januzzi 7-2-19, Adam Kirsch 1-0-2, Josh Russ 0-1-1. Totals 26-15-70.
AVON (68): Kyle Gregory 0-1-1, Marquis Harrell 12-3-31, Mike Carge 6-1-15, Andrew Wimmer 0-0-0, Steve Isaac 5-5-15, Garrett Gronowski 1-0-2, Matt Logan 0-0-0, Ryan O’Rourke 1-0-2, John Harrison 0-2-2. Totals 25-12-68.
Elyria Catholic 16 10 16 21 7 — 70
Avon 16 13 13 21 5 — 68
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 3-7 (Januzzi 3l). Avon 6-15 (Harrell 4, Carge 2). Field Goals: Elyria Catholic 26-58 (45 percent). Avon 25-56 (45 percent). Free Throws: Elyria Catholic 15-23 (65 percent). Avon 12-24 (50 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 34 (Kubuski 9), Avon 37 (Isaac 11). Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 19, Avon 17. Fouls: Elyria Catholic 14, Avon 21. Fouled Out: Gronowski.
Junior Varsity: Elyria 41-25.