KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE Elyria Catholic High School's David Griffin (13) jumps to take a shot as Rocky River High School's Tommy Ruma (3) guards him on Friday night, February 15.
KRISTIN BAUER Enlarge
ELYRIA — All year, Elyria Catholic heard its early-season struggles in playing one of the area’s toughest schedules, would pay off in February and March.
Friday night, the Panthers received their first reward.
Behind the shooting of junior Edward Wright, who hit four 3-pointers on the way to a team-high 18 points, the EC clinched at least share of the Great Lakes Conference title with a 65-53 win over Rocky River at The Coliseum.
Wright scored 10 of his points in the second half as the Panthers (11-9, 9-2) extended a three-point halftime lead to their third consecutive
double-digit win on their home floor.
The win means Elyria Catholic has a 1ﾽ-game lead over Bay in the GLC standings with one game left. The Rockets still have two league games remaining and could snag a share of the title if the Panthers were to falter Tuesday against Parma.
“After we started losing earlier in the year we looked in the mirror and realized offense wasn’t going to get it done. We had to win on both sides of the court,” Wright said.
The renewed emphasis on defense paid hefty dividends Friday as the Panthers held Rocky River to 34- percent shooting from the field. It was the fourth time in its last six games that Elyria Catholic held an opponent under 60 points.
“This is what tournament time is all about,” Elyria Catholic coach Rob Palmer said. “This time of year it really becomes a half-court game and you have to rely on your half-court defense to get stops. That’s the difference for us. When we’re able to get stops and then we can get out and run, we’re pretty hard to guard.”
Senior Jarred Logan also had a big night for the Panthers with 13 points, including three big baskets in the fourth quarter as EC was working to preserve the lead.
“We started out a little sluggish but we knew it was going to be our defense that won it for us,” Logan said. “Last time we gave them too many easy shots. This time we eliminated the easy shots and played fast.”
As one of three senior on the Elyria Catholic roster, Logan appreciates what winning a share of league title means, but he’s also looking forward to hopefully winning an outright championship and carrying that momentum into the Division III tournament as the No. 3 seed.
“We like having a share for first place, but we’re not satisfied,” Logan said. “Now it’s a test for us to see what we’re going to do when we have the conference in our hands. We’ve gotten a lot stronger and tougher as the season has went on. It’s been character building for us.
“I feel like when we went through those ups and downs we didn’t get stuck on the downs. We put those games behind us and now we come out to play to the highest of our ability.”
Rocky River (13-6, 6-4) started out strong building a five-point lead after one quarter. The Pirates didn’t trail until Wright hit a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left in the first half to give Elyria Catholic a 24-21 lead.
Pirates senior center Luke Coyne was the game’s leading scorer with 19 points.
“In the second half we were 5-of-19 for 3’s and we weren’t aggressive enough trying to get to the paint,” RockY River coach Mike Murray said. “The first half we controlled the pace and played physical. In the second half we settled for a lot of bad shots. We played pretty good defense but give (Elyria Catholic) credit they hit some tough shots. We did some positive things, we battled but things just didn’t go our way.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
Elyria Catholic 65,
Rocky River 53
ROCKY RIVER (53): Connor O’Toole 2-0-5, Tommy Ruma 2-2-7, Cristian Dean 4-6-14, Luke Coyne 7-2-19, Grant Eversman 2-2-8. Totals 17-12-53.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (65): Jarred Logan 6-0-13, Jack Griffin 1-0-3, Eli Palmer 4-3-12, Edward Wright 6-2-18, David Griffin 2-0-4, Nate Damron 2-3-7, Branson Taylor 4-0-8. Totals 25-8-65.
Rocky River 12 9 15 17 — 53
Elyria Catholic 9 15 21 20 — 65
Three-point goals: Rocky River (Coyne 3, Eversman 2, O’Toole, Ruma), Elyria Catholic (Wright 4, Palmer, J. Griffin, Logan). Field goals: Rocky River 17-50 (34 percent), Elyria Catholic 25-45 (56 percent). Free throws: Rocky River 12-20 (60 percent), Elyria Catholic 8-15 (53 percent). Rebounds: Rocky River 30, Elyria Catholic 35. Turnovers: Rocky River 10, Elyria Catholic 9. Total fouls: Rocky River 16, Elyria Catholic 15.
Junior varsity: Elyria Catholic, 56-51