PARMA HEIGHTS — Once Elyria Catholic turned the defense up, Valley Forge couldn’t keep up.
The Panthers forced eight turnovers and held the Patriots to six points in the second quarter, building a lead Valley Forge wouldn’t come back from in a 77-54 victory Tuesday.
It was EC’s Great Lakes Conference opener — the Panthers improved to 2-1 overall — while Valley Forge fell to 0-2, both games in conference.
“We felt like we were trying to do too much in the first quarter,” EC coach Phil Kuchta said.
“We just simplified it a little bit, asked out guys to play defense, rebound and make some extra passes. I’m proud of the way our guys responded to a little bit of adversity to start the game.”
Valley Forge took a 9-5 lead in the first thanks to some early Elyria Catholic miscues, punctuated by a Connor Maricic 3-pointer. Fortunately for the Panthers, Dorian Crutcher got hot, answering with back-to-back threes to tie the game at 11.
Crutcher then scored six of the next 10 points, setting the tone for his game-high 28.
“I think my teammates did a good job of moving the ball around and getting me open shots,” Crutcher said.
Defense, however, took center stage in the second. The Panthers gave up a layup 1:40 into the quarter, but that would be all until the final 20 seconds.
During that time, EC forced eight turnovers, including a stretch of three straight in which the Panthers pushed their lead from three to 10, punctuated by a Crutcher 3-poiner.
The Panthers ultimately scored 13 unanswered points before Joey Browning knocked in a three with 18 seconds left.
The one area Valley Forge had an edge in during the first half was rebounding. Browning piled up six of the team’s 16 boards to EC’s 12.
The second half was a different story, with the Panthers grabbing 12 more, but limiting the Patriots to just eight, including just two by Browning.
Jarred Logan led the way for the Panthers with 13, seven in the second half, while also adding 16 points.
“In the first half we started off slow and coach really got on us,” Logan said. “We weren’t playing as a team — offense, defense and especially rebounding. With a group of guys like us, we’re really disciplined. When things get tough, we just get down, listen to what he says and we started playing as a team more. That’s what got me going more on the rebounds. We had a good pace going.”
One thing that hurt the Patriots was leading scorer Joey Greer being limited in the second half because of foul trouble. The senior had 11 points in the first half, but was held to just three in the second, spending most of the third quarter on the bench after picking up his third foul 2:07 in.
The Patriots looked like they might have some momentum to start the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 11 off of back-to-back EC turnovers. But the Panthers responded with a 13-0 run over the next three minutes to erase whatever hope Valley Forge had.
Elyria Catholic 77, Valley Forge 54
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (77): Jarred Logan 7-2-16, Dorian Crutcher 11-2-28, Branson Taylor 4-0-8, Donovan Warfield 3-2-9, Edward Wright 0-3-3, David Griffin 3-0-7, Spencer Barhorst 1-0-2, Brendan Holley 2-0-4. Totals 31-9-77.
VALLEY FORGE (54): Joey Browning 2-2-7, Ryann Olivencia 1-1-3, Connor Maricic 3-0-9, Joey Greer 5-2-14, John Quinones 3-2-9, Nick Kugler 1-0-3, Logan Sasse 1-0-2, Miguel Ortiz 1-0-3, Jake Hamilton 2-0-4. Totals 19-7-54.
Elyria Catholic 20 17 16 24 — 77
Valley Forge 18 6 14 16 — 54
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 6-17 (Crutcher 4, Warfield, Griffin), Valley Forge 9-30 (Maricic 3, Greer 2, Quinones, Browning, Kugler, Ortiz). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 31-51 (61 percent), Valley Forge 19-57 (33 percent). Free throws: Elyria Catholic 9-15 (60 percent), Valley Forge 7-8 (88 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 24 (Logan 13), Valley Forge 24 (Browning 8). Total fouls: Elyria Catholic 9, Valley Forge 15. Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 16, Valley Forge 19.
Junior varsity: Elyria Catholic, 63-33