GARFIELD HEIGHTS -- Jack Griffin had the game of his life Tuesday night for Elyria Catholic.
The diminutive 5-foot-10 junior guard scored 25 points, missed only two shots from the field and made all four of his free throws in leading the Panthers to a 69-66 come-from-behind win over second-seeded Warrensville Heights in a Division III district semifinal at Garfield Heights High School.
His senior brother David played a solid game as well with 12 points. Both Griffins played excellent defense.
A lot of things had to go just right for Elyria Catholic against the Tigers and most of them did. It was Jack’s steal and layup with 27 seconds left that capped a 7-0 run and gave the Panthers a 67-64 that pretty much sewed up the game.
David’s free throws after being fouled off a long inbound lob pass from Jarred Logan iced it with 6.4 seconds to go.
The Panthers did not turn the ball over once in the fourth quarter after having 13 through three. Warrensville Heights committed four fourth-quarter turnovers.
The third-seeded Panthers (15-9) advance to play top seed Lutheran East (14-8) on Friday for a spot in the Sweet 16. The Falcons are seeking their third straight trip to Columbus. The Tigers bow out at 14-10.
The Panthers, with the Griffin brothers setting the tone, were aggressive all night. They grabbed a 20-11 first-quarter lead and maintained it throughout the first half. Both Griffins were able to drive inside and, if unable to make the basket, get to the free throw line. EC was 15- of-18 from the line -- the Griffins 8-for-8.
“They’re the type of kids that if you’re ever in a bunker, those are the boys you want to recruit to be in your army,” EC coach Rob Palmer said. “They always give you 110 percent. They know nothing else.”
“The last few games, I’ve been playing pretty passive,” Jack said. “Coming into this game, I knew I had to get to the basket. (Warrensville Heights) has some great players and great defenders. I knew if we spaced the court out, I could get to the hoop.”
“We wanted to come out aggressive,” David said. “We got their best player (Brandon Rush) in foul trouble. Jack was doing a great job attacking the basket.”
The play of the Griffins was the key, according to Tigers coach Brian Swift.
“We allowed their guards to get in the paint at will,” he said. “And they were finishing in the paint. Kudos to those guys -- especially No. 2 (Jack Griffin). He controlled the game. He looked like John Stockton out there. He played well.”
Edward Wright, by his own standards, had a tough night but he came through with a huge old-fashioned three-point play to give the lead back to EC after Warrensville Heights had dominated the second half. Wright’s fake and step-back jumper rolled in and he was fouled. He made the free throw for a 65-64 lead just prior to Jack Griffin’s steal along the sideline.
“That boosted our confidence and definitely boosted mine up,” said Wright, who had made only two of his 14 shots to that point. “That put us over the hump. We needed that. I needed that.”
“High IQ,” Palmer said of Wright. “He saw what was happening on the front side. He split (the defense), got the ball, head fake, went up … and when he gets to the free throw line he’s an 80-plus percent free throw shooter. Maybe it wasn’t his best game, but the IQ was there when it counted.”
Everything fell into place for the Panthers down the stretch. Rush, who scored 28 points, picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in the fourth quarter, leaving with 4:05 to play and Cleveland Heights up 59-56.
The Tigers played with a lot more intensity in the second half and battled back from the early deficit to take the lead going into the fourth quarter. They still had a 63-58 lead with only 2:27 left to play.
“That was the game plan,” Swift said. “Control the pace, speed the game up, play our way. We didn’t do that (the first half). We dug ourselves a hole.”
Logan, EC’s leading scorer all year, was in serious foul trouble as early as the second quarter but managed to stay in the game. He scored all 11 of his points in the first half and only took one shot in the second, but had 14 rebounds to lead the Panthers to a 40-30 rebounding edge.
“It was great because we have a lot of guys that can step up,” Logan said. “Not everybody does it on the scoring sheet but it’s just great when we have guys coming off the bench, and especially the Griffin brothers, who bring the intensity every time. Especially when guys like me get in foul trouble.”
“If you had told me we’d beat Warrensville Heights with Jarred Logan not scoring a point in the second half, I would have thought you were crazy,” Palmer said. “Honestly, the team-oriented defense and the team-oriented offense -- these kids have bought in.”
Elyria Catholic 69, Warrensville Heights 66
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (69): Jarred Logan 5-0-11, Jack Griffin 10-4-25, Edward Wright 3-3-11, David Griffin 4-4-12, Branson Taylor 2-3-7, Eli Palmer 0-0-0, Nate Damron 1-1-3, Luke Costantino 0-0-0, Gunner Ziegman 0-0-0. Totals 25-15-69.
WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS (66): Brandon Rush 10-3-28, Ramelle Arnold 6-2-17, Kaylin Heard 2-0-4, Daivon Porter 0-1-1, Deangelo Bell 2-0-6, Aundray Farmer 3-4-10, Anthony Wright 0-0-0, Keith Harris 0-0-0, Cameron Ray 0-0-0. Totals 23-10-66.
Elyria Catholic 20 19 14 16 — 69
Warrensville Heights 11 19 24 12 — 66
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 4-13 (Wright 2, Logan, J.Griffin), Warrensville 10-24 (Rush 5, Arnold 3, Bell 2). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 25-58 (43 percent), Warrensville 23-53 (43 percent. Free throws: Elyria Catholic 15-18 (83 percent), Warrensville 10-16 (62.5 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 40 (Logan 14), Warrensville 30 (Rush 12). Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 13, Warrensville 13. Fouls: Elyria Catholic 19, Warrensville 21. Fouled out: Damron, Rush, Farmer.