HENRIETTA TWP. - Elyria Catholic made it interesting in the fourth quarter Friday night, but Firelands` huge first-half lead proved too difficult to overcome as the Falcons downed the Panthers 74-63 in a non-conference boys basketball game.
Firelands led the Panthers 42-18 with 1:35 remaining in the second quarter before EC`s spirited second-half rally closed the gap to 64-58 on Kevin Fentner`s long jumper with 1:50 remaining in the game.
It was as close as the Panthers (2-1) would get.
Firelands (1-1) built its big early lead simply by outplaying the Panthers both offensively and defensively. Time after time the Falcons got easy layups when EC`s pressing, gambling defense overcommitted.
It also didn`t help when EC was ice cold at the free throw line, missing seven straight foul shots during one stretch in the first half.
The second-half comeback had many of the same factors, only reversed.
In one stretch of the third quarter, Firelands had five turnovers in six possessions and also missed six straight free throws. The Falcons were outscored 14-6 in the third period.
Sparking the comeback was Fentner, who scored 27 points for the Panthers, high for both teams. He had 14 points in the fourth quarter,
The rally came to a halt after a technical foul was called on EC`s Jacob Schuster for protesting a foul too emphatically with 1:43 to go. Nick Simonovich made two free throws for the foul and one of two technical foul shots.
"The technical was a key moment," Firelands coach John Tice said. "Not only did we get three points out of it but it settled down our players. We shot better at the line after that."
Following the technical, Firelands sank 5 of 8 free throws to preserve its lead.
"I was real proud of our effort," he said. "When times got tough they stayed together and held up to hold off a very good EC team. Our guys are going through a little bit of growing pains. They hung tough and learned they can rely of each other. We gained a lot of good experience from this kind of game. This should help us the rest of the way.
"I was also happy with (Jacob) Earl`s play. He came off the bench and gave us a big lift. That was a big, big help for us."
Kreig Hozalski led Firelands with 22 points, while Earl contributed 15 points and nine rebounds.
"Firelands came out and played extremely well," EC coach Alan Januzzi said. "They shot well and hit the boards. Our guys had a tremendous effort in the last half, which was a real positive about this game. We changed our focus on the press, going for the ball more and it paid off."
Firelands shot 47 percent from the field, going 5-for-7 from beyond the arc. EC shot 42 percent.
The Falcons also had a 54-35 advantage on the boards as Hozalski pulled down 10. Paul Kubuski led the Panthers with eight rebounds.
Firelands had 24 turnovers to 19 for EC.
Contact Jerry Rombach at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (63) - Kevin Fentner 10-6-27, Cody Schuster 3-1-8, Paul Kubuski 3-2-8, Jacob Schuster 3-0-6, Joe Januzzi 2-0-5, Adam Kirsch 2-0-4, Joe Fitch 1-0-2, Nick Ksenich 1-0-2, Ryan Taylor 0-1-1, Josh Russ 0-0-0, Spencer Roule 0-0-0. Totals 25-10-63.
FIRELANDS (74) - Kreig Hozalski 8-4-22, Nick Simonovich 3-7-15, Jacob Earl 5-5-15, Ryan Waldmann 3-4-10, Matt Deichler 2-1-5, Dominic Gentile 2-0-5, Cory Stevens 0-2-2, Brian Klingshirn 0-0-0, Justin Morell 0-0-0, Totals 23-23-74.
Elyria Catholic 10 15 14 24 - 63
Firelands 20 24 6 24 - 73
Three point goals - Elyria Catholic 3 of 12 (Januzzi, Cody Schuster, Fentner), Firelands 5 of 7 (Simonovich 2, Hozalski 2, Gentile); Field goals - Elyria Catholic 25 of 59 (42 per cent), Firelands 23 of 49 (47 per cent); Free throws - Elyria Catholic 10 of 18, Firelands 23 of 41; Rebounds - Elyria Catholic 35 (Kubuki 8), Firelands 54 (Hozalski 10, Earl 9); Turnovers - Elyria Catholic 19, Firelands 24; Fouls - Elyria Catholic 30 (Taylor, Jacob Schuster fouled out), Firelands 23 (Deichler fouled out).
Junior varsity - Firelands 48, Elyria Catholic 44.