Elyria Catholic's David Griffin, front, drives to the basket against Anthony Salvatore of Normandy in the fourth quarter. DAVID RICHARD / CHRONICLE
ELYRIA — Elyria Catholic shook off a rough first half to put away Normandy on Friday night.
The Panthers tightened up on defense, came out swinging in the third and matched the Invaders in the fourth, securing a 70-60 Great Lakes Conference win.
“We just played harder,” EC coach Phil Kuchta said of the second half. “I thought Normandy played very hard. We talked about being down nine at the half and we saw what we’re made of. Adversity in life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond and I thought our kids did a great job responding in the second half.”
Sophomore center Branson Taylor was a consistent force for the Panthers (3-2, 2-1). He finished with 17 points and eight rebounds — four on the offensive end. His eight points in the first half helped keep EC afloat while Normandy was hot from beyond the arc.
“My teammates got me the ball and I got in really good position to get rebounds,” Taylor said. “It was just a really good game overall. We were just trying to get a win and I just wanted to help my team. It feels great.”
The Invaders got a huge game from junior forward Milan Markovic, who led all scorers with 32 points. He started on fire, dropping 12 points in the first quarter on 3-of-5 shooting, including two 3-pointers. While he only scored three in the second, Normandy (1-5, 1-3) leaned on its other guards to push its lead to nine at the half.
EC wasted no time in the third as David Griffin opened with a layup and Jarred Logan scored the next five on a 3-pointer and two free throws, jump-starting the Panthers to a 23-7 quarter.
The 5-foot-8 Griffin seemed to be at the center of every play, frustrating Normandy on defense and catching fire offensively, scoring seven of his 19 points in the third. His best moment came when he closed the quarter with a nasty crossover that sent Kaleb Telepak to the floor while he streaked to the hoop for an easy layup.
“We just focused in and played together,” Griffin said. “Coach just put me in a position to make a play and I did.”
Taylor had some big moments in the fourth — a couple of key offensive rebounds that led to second-chance points — and scored seven of his own, including EC’s last two field goals of the game on back-to-back possessions. Both came when he was fed the ball deep in the paint, fighting through multiple defenders to push the lead from five to nine.
His teammates took care of business at the free throw line, going 7-of-8 down the stretch to keep the Invaders at bay.
EC got double-digit efforts from four of its starters with Dorian Crutcher finishing with 13 and guard Edward Wright pitching in 12. Fellow starter Jarred Logan was the only other player to score, getting nine points, while also leading the team with 13 rebounds — five on the offensive end, including two in the fourth that led to points.
“I just thought we played with a lot more energy, heart and effort in the second half,” Kuchta said. “It was great to see. We just talked about the pillars of Elyria Catholic in that locker room — playing together, playing unselfish and doing things the right way. I’m really, really proud of the way our guys responded in the second half.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him @CSweeneyCT on Twitter.
Elyria Catholic 70, Normandy 60
NORMANDY (60): Anthony Salvatore 4-0-8, Kevin Kitko 2-0-6, Aaron LaCroix 0-0-0, Milan Markovic 12-5-32, Stefan Stanic 4-0-10, Nick Zayas 1-0-2, Matt Taubeneck 1-0-2, Kaleb Telepak 0-0-0, Alex Bernhardt 0-0-0. Totals 31-9-60.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (70): Jarred Logan 2-4-9, Dorian Crutcher 5-0-13, Branson Taylor 8-1-17, Edward Wright 2-8-12, David Griffin 5-6-19, Spencer Barhorst 0-0-0, Brendan Holley 0-0-0, Nate Damron 0-0-0. Totals 23-19-70.
Normandy 17 16 7 20 — 60
Elyria Catholic 12 12 23 23 — 70
Three-point goals: Normandy 7-19 (Markovic 3, Kitko 2, Stanic 2), Elyria Catholic 5-15 (Crutcher 3, Griffin, Logan). Field goals: Normandy 24-51 (47 percent), Elyria Catholic 23-43 (53 percent). Free throws: Normandy 5-7 (71 percent), Elyria Catholic 19-23 (83 percent). Rebounds: Normandy 18 (Salvatore 6), Elyria Catholic 26 (Logan 13). Total fouls: Normandy 18, Elyria Catholic 13. Turnovers: Normandy 11, Elyria Catholic 13.
Junior varsity: Elyria Catholic, 49-46