GARFIELD HTS. — This one’s going to hurt awhile.
Elyria Catholic, seeded third in the Division III district tournament at Garfield Heights High, did a lot of things right Tuesday night against second-seeded Beachwood. Most importantly, the Panthers dominated the interior thanks to Jarred Logan and Branson Taylor, and held double-digit leads early and late.
But two Beachwood spurts — one fueled by EC carelessness and the second by plain-old scorching shooting — helped the Bison rally and eventually eliminate the Panthers.
Beachwood overcame a 10-point deficit over the final six minutes to oust EC with a 68-63 win.
“At the beginning of the game, we were up early and wanted to keep pushing the tempo,” said EC’s all-time leading scorer and senior Dorian Crutcher, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “But they just kept going on runs. I guess we just didn’t have a stop for them.”
Logan, a junior, and Taylor, a sophomore, combined for 24 points and 25 rebounds, and helped EC turn a fairly improbable halftime deficit into what looked like an insurmountable late lead late.
Elyria Catholic (12-11) held a pair of 10-point leads in the first half, but relinquished the latter in a flash as Beachwood (13-10) scored 15 straight in the second quarter and 20 of the first half’s final 22. The Bison’s half-court trap forced EC into five second-quarter turnovers and helped its quick turnaround. Beachwood’s Josh Sizemore, who matched Crutcher with 23, scored 18 in the first half.
Yet the Panthers impressively bounced back after halftime. They scored 11 straight points midway through the third as David Griffin hit a 3-pointer and Crutcher converted a couple baskets, and finished the quarter outscoring Beachwood 24-9 after Edward Wright’s three.
“I was proud of the way our guys fought back after we lost the first lead,” EC coach Phil Kuchta said. “We built another lead and little things just hurt us — not grabbing a rebound, a turnover here and there. That’s a credit to Beachwood. They stormed back both times.”
The Panthers led 53-43 after Logan and Taylor combined for three straight EC baskets, but, just like in the first quarter, it was gone in a flash. Sizemore opened the run with a three and Michael Gordon, who missed all three of his first-half shots, scored eight straight.
After Jayson Woodrich’s three, Beachwood had scored 14 straight and led by four.
To EC’s credit, it again answered the bell. Logan converted a 3-point play and Taylor added a basket for a 61-59 lead, and after another Gordon three, Crutcher hit a tough shot for the Panthers’ final lead at 63-62. Gordon, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half, scored on an uncontested layup with 15 seconds to go, and EC turned the ball over on its next possession.
Woodrich converted both free throws with six seconds left, and EC advanced the ball to midcourt and called timeout. Crutcher’s inbounds pass to Taylor was too high, and he was unable to corral it.
“Michael Gordon stepped up for us,” Beachwood coach Sean Weatherspoon said. “I challenged him going into the fourth quarter. We were in this same position last year (in a district semifinal loss to Villa Angela-St. Joseph).
“We’ve talked about finishing. Finish what you’re doing — in practice, in games. Tonight we finished.”
EC played a grueling schedule, with two of the top teams in Division II in its conference (Holy Name and Bay) and non-conference games against Garfield Heights, Lorain and Cleveland Central Catholic. Kuchta’s hope was that those games helped prepare his team, and it sure looked like they did.
“This was a really good group of guys,” EC coach Phil Kuchta said. “We challenged them all year as far as our schedule. We had an opportunity to get over the hump and get to a district championship game, but we just couldn’t quite pull it off.”
The Bison will face top-seeded Lutheran East, which beat Columbia on Monday, in Friday’s district final at Garfield Heights.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beachwood 68, Elyria Catholic 63
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (63): Edward Wright II 5-0-11, Dorian Crutcher 10-0-23, Nate Damron 1-0-2, David Griffin 1-0-3, Jarred Logan 4-1-9, Branson Taylor 7-1-15. Totals 28-2-63.
BEACHWOOD (68): Cam Thomas 3-0-7, Michael Gordon 5-2-15, Josh Sizemore 9-1-23, Ben Connor 1-0-2, Jayson Woodrich 3-4-12, Collin Albert 2-1-5, Sirr Hughes 2-0-4. Totals 25-8-68.
Elyria Catholic 17 6 24 16 — 63
Beachwood 7 24 9 28 — 68
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 5-14 (Wright, Crutcher 3, Griffin), Beachwood 10-29 (Thomas, Gordon 3, Sizemore 4, Woodrich 2). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 28-64 (44 percent), Beachwood 25-56 (45 percent). Free throws: Elyria Catholic 2-2 (100 percent), Beachwood 8-13 (62 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 42 (Logan 13), Beachwood 27 (Woodrich 7). Total fouls: Elyria Catholic 13, Beachwood 6. Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 16, Beachwood 9. Fouled out: None.