BAY VILLAGE — Jeremy Holley is no stranger to double teams — he’s faced them all season, including the first time the Panthers played Bay, a blowout loss on Jan. 13.
And yet Holley had his way with the Rockets in the first half Friday night in the teams’ regular-season finale, helping the Panthers overcome an early double-digit deficit to take a halftime lead.
Yet the Rockets improved their execution — not their strategy — on Holley in the second half, and threw in a few timely baskets to escape with a 63-58 win.
“We didn’t do anything drastically different, but we did do a better job of what we weren’t doing,” said Bay coach Jason Frolo, whose team won three in a row to close the season. “We wanted him off the block further, we thought he was establishing himself way too low. And once the shot went up, we had to get a body on him.”
The Rockets (8-12, 7-5 West Shore Conference) were without 6-foot-5 senior Jovan Miskovic, who tore ligaments in his left foot in practice before last week’s game against North Ridgeville and helped against Holley in the teams’ first meeting. And despite the Panthers’ slow start — Bay led 10-0 just 2 1⁄2 minutes into the game — Holley stormed back.
He scored EC’s first nine and scored 16 in the first half — including three second-chance baskets. And when the Panthers scored 11 of the half’s final 13 — including two free throws from John Stursa with no time on the clock — EC led by two at halftime.
EC coach Phil Kuchta said sometimes the Panthers’ desire to feed Holley works against them.
“We focus on getting him the ball a lot,” Kuchta said. “We’re looking at him, but so is the defense. We have to keep moving the ball and continue to have other guys step up offensively.”
And despite the halftime lead, Kuchta also bemoaned the Panthers’ inconsistency, which encompassed slow starts in the third and fourth quarters, too. Bay scored the first seven of the second half for a five-point edge — EC (9-11, 6-6) rallied to tie it after three — but Bay scored the first six of the fourth quarter.
EC cut that lead to three on two different occasions in the late going, after baskets by Tyler Riddell and Holley, the latter with 33 seconds left. After Sam Strauss pushed Bay’s edge to five, Whitacre made a three but EC couldn’t corral two rebounds when Bay missed consecutive back ends of one-and-ones.
“We gave up 18 points in the first quarter, and we’re better defensively than that,” EC coach Phil Kuchta said. “We turned the ball over a little bit (EC had 15), and they were critical. It just seemed like Bay was in control, they forced us into some situations that weren’t good for us.”
Holley finished with 20, but was 2-of-7 from the field in the second half. Riddell had 12 and Whitacre 11 for EC, which opens tournament play against Oberlin on Monday, a game for which Kuchta said his club is confident.
“We’re not satisfied with the outcome, but we’re happy with the direction we’re going in and we’re ready for the second season,” Kuchta said.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bay 63, Elyria Catholic 58
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (58): Cory Strasko 1-0-2, Andrew Konno 2-1-6, Jeremy Holley 9-2-20, Daniel Whitacre 4-1-11, Tyler Riddell 4-2-12, Joe Dempsey 0-1-1, John Stursa 1-3-6. Totals 21-10-58.
BAY (63): Craig Linder 2-1-6, Ryan Voiers 6-2-16, Terry Carras 1-0-2, Griffin Thompson 1-0-2, Sam Strauss 3-3-9, Bryan Lowrie 7-8-22, Scott Rapps 3-0-6. Totals 23-14-63.
Elyria Catholic 15 19 14 10 — 58
Bay 18 14 16 15 — 63
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 6 (Konno, Whitacre 2, Riddell 2, Stursa), Bay 3 (Linder, Voiers 2). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 21-50 (42 percent), Bay 23-46 (50 percent). Free throws: Elyria Catholic 10-16 (63 percent), Bay 14-19 (74 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 33 (Holley 9), Bay 28 (Strauss, Lowrie 7). Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 15, Bay 10. Fouled out: None.
Junior varsity: Bay 50-41 (OT).