Keystone's Bryan Sayers and Firelands' Jacob Farley Friday night, February 22nd. STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
LAGRANGE — Though they led the entire way, the Keystone Wildcats had to earn every bit of their 59-52 victory over Firelands in front of a packed house Friday night.
Keystone held off the feisty Falcons in the teams’ final Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division battle.
“I really liked our effort and energy out there, especially in the first quarter,” Keystone coach Jeff Holzhauer said. “I respect that Firelands team, they are a tough out.”
“I think we came out a little hesitant but once we settled in I thought we really played well,” Firelands coach Alan Januzzi said. “I was happy with the way they kept fighting a executing.”
Keystone (11-11, 10-6 PAC) came out and dominated the first quarter, giving itself a much-needed cushion for the remainder of the game.
The Wildcats raced out to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter, capitalizing off a defense that forced nine Firelands turnovers. Keystone turned those turnovers into 12 points and kept Firelands (6-16, 5-11) from attempting half as many field goals as the Wildcats.
Ethan Sokolowski had three steals and seven points in the first half, helping the Wildcats control the game.
“We played really well as a team and it was a lot of fun,” Sokolowski said. “We did a lot better sharing the ball and playing for each other.”
Keystone led 41-34 going into the fourth quarter and pushed its lead to 47-36 with baskets from Kollin Rodick and Sean Saterlee.
Firelands didn’t fold, however, going on a 6-0 run to force a Keystone timeout with 5:58 remaining.
The Falcons got as close as four, 50-46, but the Wildcats continuously found ways to make sure they didn’t get any closer.
Sokolowski helped close out during the biggest moments of the fourth quarter with a big basket and near perfection from the free throw line. He knocked down nine of 10 free throws in the final four minutes of the game, including six in the final minute. He finished with 22 points.
“I just tried to stay calm and have confidence in myself,” Sokolowski said. “I didn’t want to rush the shot like I did a few times earlier in the game.”
Sokolowski was the only Wildcats player to score in double digits, leading an otherwise very balanced attack. Nine players scored for Keystone.
“We did a really good job of moving the ball and making the extra pass,” Holzhauer said.
Despite trailing 32-20 at the half, Firelands was a different team in the second half. It fought back into the game early in the third quarter and continued to push Keystone in the fourth. An 8-1 third quarter run for Firelands brought it to within 35-30.
Keystone, as it did all game, responded by scoring the next five points to temporarily regain control.
“I thought it was a well-played high school basketball game,” Holzhauer said. “We definitely needed this win and it will be a big confidence boost.”
Firelands was led by the inside-out duo of Caden Bomback and Jacob Schmitz. After a slow start in the first half, Bomback scored 15 of his 17 points -- including three 3-pointers -- in the second half. Schmitz had 14 points and 12 rebounds, causing the Wildcats fits in the post.
The Falcons were only outscored by the Wildcats in one quarter.
“Both teams played well and I’m pleased with the way we played overall,” Januzzi said. “If we make a few more free throws it could have been a different game.”
Paul Williams at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keystone 59, Firelands 52
FIRELANDS (52): Caden Bomback 7-0-17, Mitchell Hodges 2-4-8, Jackson Talbott 2-0-6, Austin Urban 2-0-5, Alex Angle 0-0-0, Casey Kelley 1-0-2, Jacob Schmitz 5-4-14, Evan Zidar 0-0-0. Totals 19-8-52.
KEYSTONE (59): Kollin Rodick 3-1-7, Ethan Sokolowski 4-13-22, Ashton Waite 1-0-2, Kevin Mealwitz 1-0-2, Matt Mealwitz 3-2-9, Dylan Naylor 1-4-6, Jacob Shackelford 0-0-0, Karson Cendrosky 0-0-0, Mason Strader 4-0-8, Bryan Sayers 0-1-1, Sean Saterlee 1-0-2. Totals 18-21-59.
Firelands 5 15 14 18 — 52
Keystone 17 15 9 18 — 59
Three-point goals: Firelands 6-13 (Bomback 3, Talbott 2, Urban), Keystone 2-14 (Sokolowski, Matt Mealwitz). Free throws: Firelands 8-20 (40 percent), Keystone 21-27 (77 percent). Total fouls: Firelands 18, Keystone 16. Turnovers: Firelands 18, Keystone 8.
Junior varsity: Firelands, 34-26.