Branson Taylor of Elyria Catholic drives to the basket against Keystone's Jeremy Gerhardinger. DAVID RICHARD / CHRONICLE
EATON TWP. — Good teams find one way to beat you. Great teams can beat you with a myriad of weapons.
Elyria Catholic showed Friday it has what it takes to be a great team as its three-way offensive attack led by Dorian Crutcher, Jarred Logan and Branson Taylor led the Panthers back from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit and to a 76-71 win over Keystone in the opening game of the Bob DiFranco Memorial Tournament at Midview High School.
With the score tied a 63 and just under 4:30 to play, Crutcher hit a wide-open 3-pointer to give the Panthers their first lead since the opening seconds of the second half.
Less than a minute later, Crutcher drained another 3-pointer that extended Elyria Catholic’s lead to four and deflated a feisty Wildcats team.
“When I hit those 3-pointers it really shifted the momentum in our favor and my teammates really took over the game.” Crutcher said.
Crutcher scored 28 points to tie a DiFranco Tournament record originally set by Andrew Rothacker in 2002.
“Those 3-pointers were big,” Elyria Catholic coach Phil Kuchta said. “Dorian is a special player and he stepped up at the right time. Jarred Logan did a good job of finding Dorian open. They really worked together well on those plays.”
When Logan wasn’t dishing it off to Crutcher, he did a good job of finding the basket himself, finishing with 15 points, nine in the second half.
“In the beginning we started out pretty slow,” Logan said. “Every single time we seemed to go up by five or six points (Keystone) would come down and hit two 3-pointers and get it right back,” Logan said. “We upped the pace a lot playing full court and we were able to get the ball to our big guy, Branson, and he was able to take the life out of them. And we worked really hard on defense, that’s what really makes this win special.”
For the third year in a row, Elyria Catholic will face Midview in the championship game. The Middies defeated Columbia 58-56 in Friday’s other semifinal.
Keystone fell behind 26-20 early in the second quarter but after the teams came out of the locker room at halftime it looked like it would be the Wildcats that would be playing for the title.
Senior guard Brody Kuhl scored a team-high 20 points and 6-foot-6 forward Jeremy Gerhardinger was a force in the paint with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Ethan Sokolowski and Drake Rodick were also in double figures for the Wildcats with 12 and 10 points.
“I love my team this year,” Keystone coach Jeff Holzhauer said. “They are great kids and fun to be around and tonight was a fun game. It was the type of game we expected to have. There was a stretch in the first quarter then again in the fourth quarter where we allowed (Elyria Catholic) to go on runs. Beside those five minutes or so I thought our kids really played well.”
In his first game in the Elyria Catholic starting lineup, Taylor, a 6-7 sophomore, scored 18 points and nine rebounds and went 9-for-9 from the field.
“Branson is a great kid. I love him to death,” Kuchta said. “Not a bad first game for a sophomore. I think he gives us another weapon inside. He has a nice touch around the basket, he gets his hands on stuff and he’s only going to get better.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria Catholic 76, Keystone 71
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (76): Edward Wright 3-0-8, Dorian Crutcher 9-5-28, David Griffin 3-0-7, Jarred Logan 7-1-15, Branson Taylor 9-0-18. Totals 31-6-76.
KEYSTONE (71): Johnny Saxton 1-0-2, Drake Rodick 4-1-10, Ethan Sokolowski 5-0-12, Brody Kuhl 6-4-20, Kevin Mealwitz 4-0-9, Matt Mealwitz 1-0-2, Jeremy Gerhardinger 7-2-16. Totals 28-7-71.
Elyria Catholic 19 20 17 20 — 76
Keystone 15 23 23 10 — 71
Three point goals: Elyria Catholic (Crutcher 5, Wright 2, Griffin), Keystone (Kuhl 4, Sokolowski 2, Rodick, K. Mealwitz). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 31-57 (54 percent), Keystone 28-63 (44 percent). Free throws: Elyria Catholic 6-9 (66 percent), Keystone 7-10 (70 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 32, Keystone 34. Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 8, Keystone 11. Total fouls: Elyria Catholic 9, Keystone 13.