Red Hot Wildcats get set for marquee matchup with rival Eagles

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When Saint Ignatius and St. Edward faced off with each other last season three different times, none of the games disappointed. It made sense because last season for the Saint Ignatius Basketball program was one none of us will ever forget.

The first matchup featured a double overtime affair on ‘Coach Jim Connors Court’ at St. Edward High School where the Wildcats let one slip away falling 83-80 to the Eagles. Then in the regular season finale inside Sullivan Gymnasium, Saint Ignatius broke a six-game losing streak to St. Edward in front of a hostile crowd, edging the Eagles 52-49 to head into the postseason. In the playoffs, the Wildcats and Eagles renewed their rivalry in the District Final at the Wolstein Center on the campus of Cleveland State University, and it would be Saint Ignatius coming out on top and advancing to the Regional Tournament, winning 58-51.

Last season was fun, and there is no doubt about that. And so far this season, the Wildcats have slowly been finding what type of team they are, and we’re slowly starting to have some real fun. They started the season with an 0-2 record with two close losses to Cleveland Heights and Philadelphia (PA) Archbishop John Carroll. Yet, ever since then they have won sure handedly, taking down annual playoff teams in Warren G. Harding, Northland, and St. Vincent-St. Mary.

The Wildcats are now 7-3 and are getting ready for their biggest game of the season thus far. On Friday night, Sullivan Gymnasium will be rocking. The Wildcats will be tested against Head Coach Eric Flannery’s 9-2 St. Edward Eagles for the first of a possible three times this season. And with a 9-2 record, the Eagles must be good yet again, right?

The only answer to that is yes. St. Edward this season has seen premier competition in the early part of the schedule. But only out of state. The Eagles took an air trip to sunny San Diego, California after Christmas and before New Year’s. They competed in the 2016 Under Armour Holiday Classic, hosted by Torrey Pines High School. They started the tournament with a resounding 77-56 victory over Baltimore (MD) St. Frances Academy. That win saw point guard and ultimate leader of the team, Tommy Schmock, put up six three-point field goals for the ninth time of his career. He finished with a game-high 22 points.

Next up for the Eagles were the Falcons from San Diego (CA) Torrey Pines. Well, they were no match for St. Edward who would remain undefeated at 6-0 with a huge 73-44 victory. This time the leading scorer was Jack Sullivan who is a returning guard that, along with Schmock, has the capability of getting hot behind the three-point line, something the Wildcats defense will have to pay attention to at all times. He hit two three’s and led the Eagles with 12 points, while Schmock added 10.

St. Edward would experience their first loss of the season when they were defeated by El Cajon (CA) Foothills Christian. This game was notable for the Knights’ Jaylen Hands, a UCLA commit, who put up 42 points on the Eagles defense. It was a rough first loss of the season for St. Edward, but they were able to rebound and finish in third place in the tournament with an 83-79 win over Troy (NY) Redemption Christian Academy. Tommy Schmock put up a game-high 27 points with two three’s, and Jack Sullivan put up 18 points on six three’s.

Coming out of the tournament, the Eagles had no rest, playing three games in three days this past weekend. They lost to St. Vincent-St. Mary, a team the Wildcats were able to handle on New Year’s Eve 72-68, on Friday night, beat Benedictine in a close one on Saturday, and held off Brunswick in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic at Baldwin Wallace University on Sunday.

St. Edward is a dangerous team with Tommy Schmock, who has turned into one of the best point guards in the state and made the All-Tournament Team in San Diego. He had to take a back seat last year with the superb play of graduates Sean Flannery and Danny Chambers, the Eagles’ leading scorers, but now has taken over the leadership role of Eric Flannery’s ballclub. He is headed to Findlay next season to play for the Oilers.

Along with Schmock, the other returning starters for the Eagles are Jack Sullivan and Kelvin Calhoun. The Wildcats both controlled these two in the District Final last year, and overall Saint Ignatius was able to force the Eagles to do things they didn’t like doing last year, which included hitting the three ball.

Calhoun is even bigger this year and stronger at 6’7’’, 275, and going up against Matt Davet and Austen Yarian will be one of the most intriguing matchups of the night. Calhoun was the Player of the Game in the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classic win over Brunswick, scoring 10 points and made a big impact in the first half.

Another player to watch out for and to see how much time he will be playing is freshman Grant Huffman who has taken the program by storm. At 6’2’’, 165, Huffman is one of three freshmen on the Varsity level for the Eagles. He helped St. Edward spark a fourth quarter run to beat Redemption Christian Academy in California with eight fourth quarter points. He has competed in national tournaments already before he started high school, and will be battle tested in the hostile environment as a freshman against the bigs of the Wildcats.

The matchups you need to watch for is the point guard battle of Devin Jackson vs. Tommy Schmock. Jackson was able to take out Sean Flannery at Sullivan Gym last year. Will he, along with Michael Spear, be able to take out Schmock this time is the ultimate question.

The other key to the Wildcats hanging around with St. Edward is the three-point shooting. In the last two games vs. Saint Ignatius, the Eagles weren’t as good from behind the arc as before. For St. Edward this year, the Wildcats have to be able to watch out for Schmock and Sullivan to release from long range. The Wildcats last season had Ryan Berger, Kyle Kalish, and Deven Stover lighting it up from behind the arc. This season you don’t know who will hit a big one. Michael Spear has turned to be the go-to-guy for Coach Becker from behind the arc, yet Jon Barnes, Matt Davet, and Colin Goodfellow have all been able to knock the three ball down this year.

The final matchup to watch out for is the battle in the paint between Kelvin Calhoun and Matt Davet and Austen Yarian. Davet and Yarian have been able to take out big men before, such as Warren G. Harding’s Derek Culver. Body’s will be flying around underneath the basket when those three go against each other. That could be the difference maker in this game.

This will be the 92nd matchup on the hardwood between the Wildcats and Eagles with Saint Ignatius leading the all-time series 52-39. To go along with the hype that this game already has, the celebration of the Saint Ignatius Broadcast Network’s 1,000th broadcast will also take place. Brendan DeVenney ‘17, Matt MacKenzie ‘18, and Matt Harsar ‘17 will be on the call for the Varsity matchup. Brendan Gullick ‘09, founder of the SIBN, will be on air at halftime.

Junior Varsity tips off at 5:30 to begin the exciting night of basketball in Ohio City. The schedule only gets tougher from here for the current 7-3 Wildcats! This is a game you won’t want to miss!