ERIE, PA – After an emotionally draining victory over St. Vincent-St. Mary on New Year’s Eve, the question was going to be how will the Wildcats stay focused and stay hot. Coming off a big win and now a long bus ride create complicated conditions for any sports team.
The Wildcats traveled into the freezing cold and snow filled city of Erie, PA to challenge Cathedral Prep on Saturday night. The Joann Mullen Gymnasium at the Prep Villa Event Center, which is only in its third season of use, was a first class facility from top to bottom, an excellent spot to spend an afternoon for high school basketball. The players on the floor agreed, and both JV and Varsity walked away with victories Saturday night in Erie. Coach Becker and the Wildcats had their hands full with the Ramblers of Erie Cathedral Prep but fought them off for a 62-54 victory.
It was another slow start for the Wildcats, almost as expected coming off a huge win last game, but with over a week to focus up before last nights game coaches and players were not making excuses for themselves.
The slow start was partially initiated by the two questionable early fouls on both Dom Dinunzio and Tevin Jackson. The Wildcat’s eight fouls put the Ramblers into the bonus by the end of the first quarter. Some sloppy turnovers and lack of offense put the Wildcats into a 16-11 hole at the end of the first quarter.
Through the first quarter and early part of the second quarter the Ramblers did an excellent job boxing out and rebounding the basketball not giving Dom Dinunzio the chance to get going underneath the hoop rebounding the ball. Dinunzio finished the game with only one rebound.
In a very tightly called game, the Wildcats did not regain the lead until an and-1 from Chase Toppin to put his team up 25-24. The lead was regained by the Ramblers on the next possession.
At the half the Ramblers led the Wildcats 26-25. Jon barnes and Neeko Melendez led the way with 7 points a piece. The big story of the first half: fouls. 20 total first half fouls, 11 being on the wildcats, 9 on the Ramblers. Nitpicky calls all night put the Wildcats in foul trouble early. The ramblers were led by Upperman with 10 points and Charley and Santillan with 6 points a piece.
To use the words of Father Paul Shelton, it was a “choppy” first half. Father Shelton stopped up in the SIBN booth during halftime to talk about the rough first half of basketball and his work with the basketball team as the team chaplain.
It wasn’t until late in the third quarter that the Wildcats seemed to find some offensive rhythm but were still not able to find an answer for the three point shooting from the Ramblers that came at good times to keep them in the game.
It was some quick back to back offensive possessions from Luke Wiskes, who was coming off an 18 point game in Akron, and Neeko Melendez that jump-started the Wildcat offensive run in the fourth quarter.
Neeko Melendez finished with team high 20 points on 4 for 8 from three point shooting. Jon Barnes who stayed aggressive in the first half after not getting some very clear foul calls finished with 17 points. Luke Wiskes who was able to get some quick points down low in the fourth, finished with 9 points.
Questionable foul calls continued into the fourth quarter as both teams were into the bonus with over a minute to play. As the Ramblers trailed by 10 in the last minute they began fouling to extend the game but could not find their way back into contention. The Wildcats knocked down a couple free throws and pulled away to a 62-54 victory.
The Ramblers are now a very deceiving 4-6 on the year. With Charlie and Upperman who can both score the ball well, Cathedral Prep is a very solid team that would be able to keep up with any of the better teams they may face. They will face challenges when they host the well known Burger King Classic at the Joann Mullen Gymnasium. The Burger King Classic is one of the most popular four team tournaments in the country.
As for the Wildcats, after getting their fourth straight win are now 7-2 on the year and will look to continue their winning streak on Saturday night at the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center on the beautiful campus of John Carroll University when Westerville South makes the trip from Columbus.
Be on the lookout for an update on the rescheduling for the matchup vs. University School.
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