ELYRIA - Late was better than never.
Elyria Catholic found its touch from the free-throw line in time to come away with a 75-67 overtime victory over Midview in the basketball opener at the Coliseum on Friday night.
It was more than a win for the Panthers, it was a relief. EC dropped its last nine games a year ago during a 5-16 season, and it`d been a while since it had tasted a win.
"It was January (23) of last season," said coach Alan Januzzi. "This was a good way to start the season. I`m happy for them."
Misfires from the foul line could`ve been costly. EC sank just six of 16 in the second half, missing a pair of two-shot free throws on the same possession and then a one-and-one in the fourth quarter.
Midview finally caught the Panthers with five seconds left when Derek Haney sank a shot from the right side. Elyria Catholic was called for charging with a little more than a second left and Midview almost won the game with a back-screen lob to Haney who came close to connecting with the game-winner.
Tied 63-all after 32 minutes, the Panthers turned their fortunes around in the four-minute extra session, sinking eight of eight from the stripe, and getting a huge defensive play from Ryan Taylor.
Both teams missed on their first possession in overtime, but Taylor - a 6-foot junior guard - intercepted a Midview pass and fed Cody Schuster for a fast-break layup, giving EC a lead it wouldn`t lose.
"That`s what (Taylor) does," Januzzi said. "He`s quick, he anticipates well and he reads the pass."
EC kept making the plays on defense. Schuster came up with another steal, leading to a basket by Joe Fitch, then the Panthers closed out the game with eight from the line - six of them by Kevin Fentner.
"If we`d made some (free throws) down the stretch it wouldn`t have gone into overtime," Januzzi said. "But we hit them when we were tired and we needed them."
The Panthers were 19 of 30 from the stripe to Midview`s 10 of 17.
"EC did a good job handling our press, getting the ball to Fentner. They also did a good job getting the ball to Fitch in the paint," said Midview coach Troy DiFranco.Â "We`ve got to rebound the basketball. It`s pretty simple. I don`t care if you`re 5-3 or 6-8, you`ve got to box out better. We had some first-game things, but if we`d rebounded, that would have taken care of those problems."
Elyria Catholic had a 38-29 rebounding edge and an 18-9 advantage in offensive rebounds, enabling EC to withstand 53 percent shooting by the Middies - 67 percent in the second half.
Fitch, a 6-3 senior, led all scorers with 22 points - hitting 10 of 15 shots - and snared seven rebounds. Fentner had 21 and 6-4 junior Paul Kubuski came off the bench to add 17 points and eight rebounds.
"I told Joe Fitch that he can have a whale of a year if he stays inside," Januzzi said. "He made good decisions. He passed well and finished well. I was impressed with how well he finished. He`s so strong and has great jumping ability. He had a great game."
Haney, a sharp-shooting senior guard, fueled Midview`s comeback from a 29-22 halftime deficit. He scored 19 points - 15 of them in the second half. He hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter, and added nine points in the fourth.
"He hit some big shots," DiFranco said.
"Midview really shot well and they battled back," said Januzzi. "I thought for an opening ball game the kids played well."
The football teams from both schools made the playoffs, so both basketball programs didn`t have their full complement of players for another week. Midview`s problems started in Week 4 of the football season when 6-6 Dave Rankin was injured in the Vermilion game.
The Middies had to change their schemes to compensate for his loss, but the lack of rebounding hurt.
"I`m proud of our effort," DiFranco said. "We came back. We were flat in the first half, but we came back with more intensity. But we have to execute better and we have to make rebounding a priority."
Elyria Catholic 75, Midview 67
MIDVIEW (67): Brad Gross 3-2-8, Derek Haney 8-0-19, Nick Clark 5-2-12, Mike Mercado 5-4-14, Kevin Allen 2-0-4, Jordan English 2-2-6, Jacob Klamut 0-0-0, Matt Borsz 0-0-0, Kyle Wagner 0-0-0, Justin Casselle 1-0-2, Tim Jaykel 1-0-2. Totals 27-10-67.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (75): Jacob Schuster 1-0-2, Spencer Roule 0-0-0, Joe Fitch 10-2-22, Kevin Fentner 6-7-21, Cody Schuster 2-2-6, Paul Kubuski 6-5-17, Adam Kirsch 1-2-4, Ryan Taylor 0-1-1, Joe Januzzi 1-0-2. Totals 27-19-75.
Midview Â Â Â 12Â Â Â 10Â Â Â 21Â Â Â 20Â Â Â 4Â Â Â - Â Â Â 67
Elyria CatholicÂ Â Â 15Â Â Â 14Â Â Â 17Â Â Â 17Â Â Â 12Â Â Â - Â Â Â 75
Three-point goals: Midview (3-21) Haney 3, EC (2-8) Fentner 2; Rebounding: Midview 29 (Clark 6), EC 38 (Kubuski 8); Turnovers: Midview 25, EC 20; Fouls: Midview 23, EC 16; Fouled Out: J. Schuster; Field Goal Shooting: Midview 27 of 51 (53 percent), EC 27 of 56 (48 percent); Free Throw Shooing: Midview 10 of 17 (59 percent), EC 19 of 30 (63 percent).
JV: Midview 37-36.