AKRON, OHIO – It has become somewhat of a New Year’s Eve tradition: two programs usually at the top of their respective divisions matched up yet again on the last day of 2017. All expectations of a game between two high caliber teams were surpassed when Ignatius Hoops made the trip down to Akron to face the Fighting Irish of St. Vincent-St. Mary.
It was a dogfight till the very end. The Wildcats slightly trailed the Fighting Irish for a majority of the game. After a slow first quarter the Wildcats trailed 13-6, but they turned things around in the second. Josh Ozanne seemed to settle in for the first time this season in the second quarter, leading the Wildcats to a 23 point quarter and then a five point lead at halftime. Ozanne finished the game with nine points.
It was the resilient effort by the Wildcats and Luke Wiskes that eventually wore the Fighting Irish down. St. Vincent-St. Mary had their chance to run away with it in the closing minutes but four straight missed free throws gave the Wildcats the opportunity they needed to finish the deal.
With two minutes remaining in the game, the Wildcats trailed by seven. The Wildcats cut the lead to three with a minute to play, and Jon Barnes took to the freethrow line for two foul shots. After rattling home the first, Barnes’s second shot bounced off the front part of the rim to a rebounding Wiskes who would then have the ball smacked out of his hands by an opponent in white and green, off the backboard and into the basket. Tie ballgame at 59 in an unconventional manner.
After another St. Vincent-St. Mary turnover Luke Wiskes would take a determined approach to the rim on the Wildcat’s next possession, drawing the foul and sinking two game winning free throws with six seconds remaining in the game. Wiskes scored 5 quick and impressive points to cut the St. Vincent-St. Mary lead earlier on in the fourth, fought hard enough for an offensive rebound to create a tie game, and made two pressure free throws to seal the 61-59 victory for the Wildcats. Wiskes finished the game with a team high 18 points followed by 10 points from seniors Jon Barnes and Neeko Melendez.
The Wildcats handed St.Vincent-St. Mary their fourth loss of the season. The Fighting Irish took highly ranked Garfield Heights to overtime. The Wildcats will play Garfield Heights in a couple of weeks and with a solid victory over St. Vincent-St. Mary, who were able to put up a fight against Garfield, might give the Wildcats a little boost of confidence going into that high anticipated game. That is in weeks to come. The Wildcats have plenty to handle to begin 2018.
The holiday break campaign continues Friday night when the Preppers of University School make the trip to Sullivan Gym from Hunting Valley. The Preppers hold a 4-5 record coming into Friday nights matchup against the 6-2 Wildcats. Ignatius is usually one of the tougher teams on the Preppers schedule who last year used their imense size advantage to walk away with a 90-54 victory.
On Saturday the Wildcats will make a road trip of their own through the winter weather of Pennsylvania to Erie where they will meet Erie Cathedral Prep. This will be the first of three back to backs the Wildcats will play this season. After a emotional and exhilarating victory, it is important for the Wildcats to keep their foot on the gas through this series of games leading up to an even more challenging chapter of the season.