Sean O’Toole and his ‘Cats are gearing up for the 2008-09 basketball season.
By Eddie Dwyer
In the middle of Tuesday’s spirited practice, Saint Ignatius basketball coach Sean O’Toole (’87)emphasized to his players that ''repetition is the master teacher.’’
O’Toole, who has returned to his alma mater as the Wildcats’ new varsity coach and Associate Athletic Director, runs his practices with same passion and tireless work ethic he brought to the court as a standout power forward for Saint Ignatius.
''Larry Arthur, who was my coach (at Saint Ignatius), gave me a great experience and helped me decide what I wanted to do in life, and that was be a coach,’’ said O’Toole of the Wildcats’ current Dean of Students. Arthur is still by O’Toole’s side on the court, helping his former pupil and player as an assistant coach.
''Everything I’m doing, I’m kind of following in his footsteps,’’ O’Toole said of Arthur’s influence.
It’s now more than 21 years since O’Toole was muscling his way around the basket in Sullivan Gymnasium and out-hustling and out-playing more highly publicized players.
However, if you watched practice closely, it was obvious O’Toole is determined to mold the 2008-09 Wildcats into a team capable of playing with anyone on its who’s who schedule.
Yes, a group of eager competitors who could end up resembling that relentless 6-2 post player who left it all on the court for Coach Arthur.
''You would love to come back and have the same impact on these kids, as he had on me,’’ O’Toole said.
O’Toole landed the job he dreamed about as a kid when Brian Becker (’77), the most successful coach in Wildcats basketball history, retired after last season. Becker guided Saint Ignatius to a school-record 284 career victories, 15 sectional championships, nine district titles, two regional championships, a state runner-up finish in 1998 and the school’s only state championship in basketball in 2001.
A man with a passion for defense, O’Toole is no stranger to succeeding success.
Before accepting his positions at Saint Ignatius, O’Toole coached for 13 years at Euclid High School, including the past eight seasons as the Panthers’ head coach. He compiled a varsity record at Euclid of 94-80.
And who was the man he learned from and succeeded at Euclid? Well, none other than Hall of Fame coach and Cleveland coaching legend Harold “Doc’’ Daugherty.
''This (Saint Ignatius basketball) is a job that opens probably once every 20 years,’’ said O’Toole of his decision to turn the tall, talented and deep Panthers over to his former assistant at Euclid, Andy Suttell.
''You get the chance to come back, coach at your alma mater and be around the greatest atmosphere in high school sports. Saint Ignatius is just the total package of the high school experience – the spirituality, the academics and the athletics. To provide that atmosphere for my family is something I wouldn’t turn down in a million years.’’
In 6-4 senior post player Dan Fox and 6-2 senior guard Pat Hinkel, O’Toole has two experienced starters and players who bring a winning mentality from the Wildcats’ 10th Division I state-championship football team. Fox and Hinkel are coming off a fall season in which they both garnered All-Ohio honors as safeties.
''Obviously, they bring a lot of intelligence, athleticism and just a wealth of confidence,’’ said O’Toole of Fox and Hinkel. ''And Joey Salata is a senior who has taken this team on his wing while these guys were in football. He has shown leadership through example.
''Tom Parker is a returning varsity guy, Tyler Hammond is looking good and we have Joey Parris and Mark Myers who are out for the team, both very good athletes who played with us in the summer time.’’
Parris was an All-Ohio receiver in football this fall and the 6-5 Myers was the punter and backup quarterback.
''I hope that our defense is our forte, ‘O’Toole said. “We’d like to be a pressure team that dictates defensively, that pressures other teams into shots and decisions they are not comfortable with.
''We’re athletic, and we want to play fast and we want to play a lot of guys. We want to push the ball down the floor.
''Everyone asks, what is your goal offensively? It’s to get easy buckets, whether that’s through transition or playing through the post. I love playing through the post. You know, I was a ‘big’ myself. I love dribble drives and, when we don’t get easy buckets there, I love the spot-up, three-point shot. I think it’s a weapon every team has to utilize.’’
The Wildcats, ranked 10th in The Plain Dealer's preseason Top 25, open their season with three consecutive road games – at Massillon on Dec. 13th, at Canton McKinley on Dec. 20th and at Findlay on Dec. 23rd. The home opener is Dec. 27th against Warren Harding. Harding returns a strong nucleus from a team that lost a heartbreaker to Saint Edward in last season’s regional finals.
Villa Angela-St. Joseph is back on the schedule, as the Vikings will visit Sullivan Gymnasium on Jan. 3rd. The first of the annual home-and-home matchups with Coach Eric Flannery and his Saint Edward Eagles is Jan. 16th at the Sullivan Gym.
Saint Ignatius vs. Massillon basketball recap
Posted on 12/14/08 at 1:57 a.m.
‘Cats’ late surge helps make Coach O’Toole’s debut a successful one; varsity and junior varsity are victorious in Tiger Town.
By Eddie Dwyer
MASSILLON – Saint Ignatius varsity basketball coach Sean O’Toole and his staff had no issues with the Wildcats’ effort on defense Saturday night.
As far as the offense is concerned, well, it wasn’t like the growing pains weren’t expected.
The Wildcats, putting together a defensive-fueled surge in the final six minutes, rallied past the patient and well-schooled Massillon Tigers, 45-39, in O’Toole’s debut as his alma mater’s coach.
Earlier in the evening, Coach Kevin Neitzel’s junior-varsity squad also came on down the stretch and defeated the Tigers’ jayvees, 38-35.
''We just needed to find a way to score,’’ said O'Toole, whose team trailed, 19-10, with six minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the second quarter. ''They played us pretty tough as far as taking away some of our post action. Massillon had a great game plan and they’re very well coached.
''But the bottom line is that it was like a first scrimmage. That’s 10 days of practice and the first time with this group of kids against someone else. You know, we’re going to be flat in some areas and in some areas we’re going to be uncomfortable.
''So we got another week of practice coming up. We’ll be a little better next week, but we certainly don’t think we’ll be a finished product. Hopefully we’ll be able to peak at the right time, in January, into February and then in the tournament.
''But one thing we have (right now) is smart, tough kids that will defend.’’
Saint Ignatius, displaying that mental toughness at the defensive end of the court, put together a 9-0 run and tied the score at 19 on two free throws by junior guard Tyler Hammond with 1:41 left in the first half.
Trailing, 22-19, at halftime, the Wildcats rode two free throws by junior post Vito Sosic and a 3-pointer by senior post Dan Fox to a 26-24 lead late in the third quarter.
However, Saint Ignatius went stale on offense over the final two minutes of the third quarter and Massillon’s patience in its Princeton offense put the Tigers in front, 30-28, entering the final eight minutes.
Down by three points with 6:26 remaining to be played, the Wildcats turned to their trapping defense and put together a 7-0 run. It was a spurt that featured a two-handed slam by sophomore post Shonn Miller off a steal and an assist by Hammond, a 3-pointer by Miller, a five-second violation on Massillon and a layup by junior forward Rich Austin off a top-of-the-key lob pass from Fox. Miller led all scorers with 10 points.
After Coach Matt Creamer’s Tigers cut the deficit to 37-35 with 2:10 to go, Saint Ignatius senior guard Pat Hinkel came up with a clutch three-point play off a strong drive along the baseline with 1:48 left. Hinkel played with four fouls over the final 5:05.
The Wildcats then sealed the deal behind the free-throw shooting of Hammond and senior guard Joey Salata. Saint Ignatius was 20-of-30 from the charity stripe.
''If you have an attitude going out there that you’re not going to let them score, sometimes that’s all you need,’’ said Hinkel, who garnered All-Ohio recognition and Plain Dealer seven-county All-Star honors as a safety on the Wildcats’ 10th Division I state-championship football team. ''You can make your defense your offense by turning it into fast breaks.
''I thought I had an advantage on the player, he kind of came out and closed off, and gave me the baseline,’’ Hinkel said of his decisive three-point play. “There wasn’t much help (by Massillon’s defense), so I took it up strong.’’
In the junior varsity game, Saint Ignatius held a 36-33 lead after Zach Strippy grabbed an offensive rebound with authority and laid the ball in.
The Wildcats clinched the victory in the final 17.1 seconds on a steal by Greg Kurtz and two free throws by Ryan Ivancic. Ivancic was a member of this fall’s Division I state-champion soccer team. Tom Leppla showed the way for the ‘Cats’ offense by scoring 14 points, including four 3-pointers.
Saint Ignatius vs. Canton McKinley basketball recap
Posted on 12/21/08 at 1:45 a.m.
'Cats don't cash in; "Pups'' continue their winning ways in Memorial Field House.
By Eddie Dwyer
CANTON – The final stats almost said it all – 22 turnovers and a 10-for-20 performance from the free-throw line, with two of the misses coming off the front ends of one-and-one situations.
Yes, it was a tough night in legendary Memorial Field House on Saturday, as the Saint Ignatius Wildcats fell to the Canton McKinley Bulldogs, 66-54.
The Wildcats, who got off to another slow start offensively, slipped to 1-1 on the young season, while the Bulldogs, who led, 9-0, with the game just two minutes old, improved to 4-0.
That’s all you need to know, right?
Well, the numbers, which also saw McKinley win the rebounding battle, 33-25, didn’t quite tell the whole story. And that is what is so frustrating for Saint Ignatius head coach Sean O’Toole (’87) and his staff.
Despite the poor shooting from the charity stripe and some inconsistent play at both ends of the court, the Wildcats never stopped hustling and were still in the game with 1:07 remaining to be played.
''They’re free, you’ve got to knock them down,’’ said O’Toole of his team’s 50 percent effort from the foul line. ''And we didn’t get there (to the line) enough. We had the advantage inside.’’
McKinley, which has now won 601 games in Memorial Field House, rode its ball pressure and the quickness of senior point guard Terrell Lipkins to a 17-9 lead entering the second quarter. The 5-9 Lipkins scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the first eight minutes.
It was more of the same in the second quarter, as the Bulldogs took a 31-19 advantage into their locker room at halftime.
Saint Ignatius, which took the Memorial Field House’s parquet floor ranked seventh in The Plain Dealer’s Top 25 poll, closed to 31-23 early in the third quarter on two strong moves down low by 6-4 senior post Dan Fox.
The Bulldogs, responding in a fashion one associates with a program that has produced an Ohio-best 1,737 victories, held a 40-26 lead after Lipkins scored off a rainbow one-hander and junior guard Isiah Elliott dropped in two points off a running one-hander.
However, just as the McKinley faithful were expecting their “Pups’’ to run away with it, the Wildcats picked up their defensive effort and went on a 14-4 run.
After a strong drive along the baseline by senior guard Joey Salata, a floating one-hander down the lane by junior guard Tom Parker and a layup by Fox off a give-and-go from Parker, Saint Ignatius trailed, 44-40, with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
McKinley, riding the clutch free-throw shooting of junior guard Jamon McClain, was able to keep the Wildcats at bay down the stretch. The Bulldogs were 19-of-26 from the foul line.
Saint Ignatius was still in striking distance after Fox buried a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 59-52 with 1:07 left. Fox led the Wildcats with 15 points.
Keeping its composure, yet still attacking the basket, McKinley pulled away on a three-point play by 6-4 sophomore forward Steve Miller with 44.2 seconds to go.
''We had opportunities to finish, we didn’t get the traditional three-point plays,’’ said O’Toole, whose team will play its third consecutive road game when it travels to Findlay on Tuesday night. ''I was decently happy where we got (the ball). But when we get it there, we’ve got to finish.
''There were spurts where we pushed it well and there were spurts where we got it in the post well. But it seemed like every time we made that spurt, then we would have a two-possession letdown, they would get a traditional three-point play and we would make a silly turnover.’’
McKinley also was victorious in the junior-varsity game, defeating the Wildcats’ jayvees, 51-42.
Saint Ignatius, behind six quick points by guard Greg Kurtz, jumped out to a 10-0 lead. But the young “Pups’’ responded with a commanding 25-5 run.
The Wildcats got a solid performance off the bench from guard Rickey Brown, who finished with a team-high 11 points.
Saint Ignatius vs. Findlay basketball recap
Posted on 12/24/08 at 3:13 a.m.
Laying down the ‘D’ and displaying patience on offense; Wildcats claw their way past the Trojans.
By Eddie Dwyer
FINDLAY – Moments after his team experienced its first setback of the young season, Findlay High basketball coach Jim Rucki spoke of the defensive effort Saint Ignatius brought to the Trojans’ court on Tuesday night.
“We knew they were going to be strong,’’ Rucki said after the Wildcats turned back Findlay, 49-40. “I know they probably think they’ve been struggling a little bit. But Saint Ignatius is going to play good competition every night out there.
“They’re strong and physical, and I knew we would have trouble running things (on offense). You know, you just get bumped a step out wider and you can’t make the pass that usually we can make. And we need to take that away from this game, to make us a better team.
“That’s the best thing about playing a team that is going to get after it and be strong at every position, physically. We’ll look at that on tape and learn how to do things better.’’
Saint Ignatius (2-1), which handed the Trojans their first loss in five games, came out strong and, after a driving one-hander by senior guard Joey Parris, led, 10-1, with 3:49 remaining in the opening quarter.
Following a timeout, Findlay seemed to settle into its offense. The Trojans closed to 21-18 with 2:09 to go in the first half.
The Wildcats, who were playing their third consecutive road game, became more aggressive at both ends of the court and, after 6-5 sophomore forward Shonn Miller buried his second 3-pointer of the first half, led, 26-18. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Findlay’s standout senior guard Luke Kraus made the score 26-21 at halftime.
“As long as the team gets a win, I’m happy,’’ said Miller, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half and tied senior post Dan Fox for team scoring honors.
The Trojans, who were coming off a 22-point victory over previously unbeaten Toledo Rogers, twice cut the deficit to one point early in the third quarter.
But Miller offset those flurries with four unanswered points, including his third 3-pointer.
“Shonn Miller off the bench, what can I say?’’ Wildcats Coach Sean O’Toole (’87) said. “He’s still a work in progress, but the finished product is going to be beautiful.’’
Parris got back in the act by making a steal near mid-court and converting it into a layup. After a three-point play by Kraus cut the deficit to three points, Parris beat his defender for a back-door layup off a picture-perfect assist from senior forward Fred Schirmer and Saint Ignatius held a 36-31 lead entering the final eight minutes.
“We need to get Joey Parris going,’’ said O’Toole of an athlete who less than a month ago was helping Saint Ignatius to a record 10th Division I state football championship as an All-Ohio wide receiver. “One of our things right now is getting more offense, and Joey Parris brings us offense.
“But, it can’t be one end of the floor and Joey knows that. I thought he did a good job defensively, too. That steal led to a breakaway and gave us some momentum.’’
The Wildcats carried that momentum into the fourth quarter as the 6-4 Fox scored eight points over the final eight minutes, including a clever move down the lane for two points and a soft jumper in the lane that pushed Saint Ignatius’ lead to 46-37 with 2:18 remaining. Fox’s jumper was preceded by a strong, driving layup by senior guard Pat Hinkel, and Hinkel helped seal the deal with two clutch free throws with 1:22 to go. Fox, a Notre Dame recruit, and Hinkel, a Miami (Ohio) recruit, garnered All-Ohio football honors as safeties.
Kraus, who recently surpassed Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the leading scorer in the history of Findlay High’s boys basketball program, finished with a game-high 23 points. A Bowling Green State University recruit, the 6-1 Kraus had to work for everything he got against the Wildcats’ physical defense. He hit just seven of 23 shots from the field.
Saint Ignatius was 18-of-33 from the field, including a 15-of-22 performance on two-point shots, and the Wildcats connected on 10 of their 19 free throws. Fox hit on six of his seven shots from the field.
JV UPDATE: Sparked by Patrick Gallagher's 21 points, Saint Ignatius' junior-varsity team defeated Findlay's jayvees, 53-45, and handed the young Trojans their first setback of the season. Coach Kevin Neitzel's squad improved to 2-1.
The Wildcats rode Gallagher's nine points, some more solid play off the bench by Rickey Brown and clutch baskets by Mason Halter and Casey Hollis to a 26-23 lead at halftime.
Tom Leppla hit his second 3-pointer on the first possession of the second half, but Findlay, behind the strong inside play of Zach Elbin, knotted the score at 37 entering the fourth quarter. Elbin and Gallagher shared game scoring honors.
Over the final seven minutes, the Wildcats picked up their half-court defense and began pushing the ball down court. After a smooth jumper by Zach Strippy and a layup by Gallagher off an assist from Ryan Ivancic, Saint Ignatius clung to a 43-41 lead with 3:13 remaining.
The Wildcats then pulled away down the stretch, as Gallagher and Brown converted layups and Gallagher turned a steal by Brown into another strong move inside. Saint Ignatius wrapped it up on two free throws by Ivancic with 20.7 seconds left.
Warren Harding vs. Saint Ignatius basketball recap
Posted on 12/28/08 at 1:14 a.m.
Highly touted Raiders need late free throws to turn back the Wildcats; charity stripe wasn’t kind.
Saint Ignatius travels to Lakewood tonight (posted on 12/30/08 at 12:35 a.m.
By Eddie Dwyer
Early in the third quarter Saturday night, a group of fans said goodbye to their friends and headed for one of the exits in Sullivan Gymnasium.
As they made their way through the standing-room crowd, these fans emphasized that they had “seen enough.’’
Oh, if they only knew what they ended up not seeing.
Saint Ignatius, trailing by 18 points with less than a minute gone in the third quarter, picked up its effort at both ends of the court and took Warren Harding to the wire before falling at the foul line, 65-58.
In a game that was decided at the charity stripe in the final 23 seconds, the Harding Raiders improved to 5-0 behind the clutch free-throw shooting of forward/guard Angel Gonzalez.
The Wildcats, who made a valiant effort against a basketball team many veteran coaches and reporters have labeled as one of the four or five best in Ohio, slipped to 2-2.
“The defensive energy is definitely coming,’’ said Coach Sean O’Toole (’87) after his Wildcats clawed their all the way back and tied the score with slightly more than seven minutes remaining to be played. “Part of the plan was to attack them and try to get them in foul trouble.
“That’s a very good Harding team over there. Their guards are great, their pressure is great. We had 16 turnovers at halftime, and only four in the second half. Number one, we were conscious of not making the turnover (in the second half) and number two, we had them in foul trouble and they had to back off a bit.
“But you know what the key stat is, 14 missed free throws (by Saint Ignatius). I’m at a loss because I know how mental it is. Right now I have to figure out a way to get us confident at that line. In practice, we actually look good shooting them.’’
The Wildcats, who were coming off a 10-for-19 performance from the foul line in a nine-point victory at Findlay, hit on just 10 of 24 free throws against the Raiders.
Warren Harding, which advanced to the elite eight in Division I last season, rode its gifted guards and relentless ball pressure to the 18-point cushion. Leading the way for Coach Steve Arnold was the tenacious trio of Fred Williams (23 points), Sheldon Brogdon (16 points) and Desmar Jackson (14 points).
However, just when the Raiders’ faithful were anticipating a blowout, Saint Ignatius went into an attack mode, both offensively and defensively.
After two strong moves in the post by senior Dan Fox and a 3-pointer by Fox, the Wildcats trailed by 11 points with 5:29 left in the third quarter. A soft jumper in the lane by sophomore forward Shonn Miller, another 3-pointer by Fox and a layup by Miller off an assist from junior guard Tom Parker cut the deficit to 42-36 with 3:33 to go in the third quarter.
Harding, which was coming off a dominant performance at Shaker Heights, got some breathing room on three free throws by Williams. Saint Ignatius responded with a 3-pointer and a free throw by junior guard Tyler Hammond and, after Fox powered up two more points along the baseline, the Wildcats trailed, 46-43, entering the final eight minutes. Fox scored 12 of his team-high 17 points in the third quarter and finished with 10 rebounds.
“He’s a horse and we’re going to ride him all year long, there’s no doubt about it,’’ said O’Toole of the 6-4 Fox, a Notre Dame football recruit.
Saint Ignatius, which travels to Lakewood on Tuesday night, knotted the score at 46 on a free throw by senior guard Pat Hinkel and a basket in transition by Parker.
At that point, Harding, displaying the composure one associates with a highly touted team, went on an 8-0 run that was sparked by a steal and a one-handed slam-dunk by the long and athletic Jackson.
A driving layup along the baseline by Hinkel made it a six-point game, but Brogdon hit a clutch 3-pointer and the Raiders led, 57-48.
Once again, the Wildcats provided a flurry – a 7-2 run that featured a strong drive down the lane by Fox, a forced turnover by Hinkel, a soft, running one-hander by Hammond and a 3-pointer by Miller with 2:07 remaining to be played.
After Hinkel scored off an assist from Miller, Saint Ignatius trailed, 60-57, with 48 seconds left. Hinkel, a Miami (Ohio) football recruit, scored 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had six assists.
“Pat’s the glue,’’ O’Toole said. “We need Pat out there because he settles us down, makes very intelligent decisions, attacks and is our lock-down defender. He’s invaluable.’’
And the Raiders’ faithful are probably feeling the same about their Angel – Gonzalez – who came up with a big offensive rebound and four pressure free throws in sending the team from Trumbull County home happy.
Until Gonzalez’s game-clinchers, Harding also was having a shaky night from the foul line. The Raiders ended up hitting 15 of their 28 attempts from the charity stripe.
A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: In leading the Wildcats’ junior-varsity team to a 68-56 victory over Harding’s jayvees, guard Tom Leppla scored 33 points, including six 3-pointers.
A 6-1 sophomore, Leppla scored 13 points and hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and by halftime he had 24 points and five 3-pointers. Coach Kevin Neitzel (’90) watched his junior-varsity squad improve to 3-1.
Saint Ignatius-Lakewood basketball recap
Posted on 12/30/08 at 11:56 p.m.
Another strong defensive effort; ‘Cats’ depth, post scoring and rebounding help turn back a game Lakewood team.
Villa Angela-Saint Joseph up next (see Vikings pay a visit to Sullivan Gymnasium below).
By Eddie Dwyer
Saint Ignatius coach Sean O’Toole loves to utilize several players every night out.
The way O’Toole (’87) looks at it, a deep rotation will only pay dividends in the second half of the season.
However, in order to develop an effective and compatible rotation, you must have players who are willing to check their egos at the door and make the most of the opportunities that present themselves.
Tuesday night at Lakewood High School, Wildcats junior post player Vito Sosic did just that as his strength and second-effort hustle helped Saint Ignatius to a 52-41 victory over the Rangers in a non-league basketball headliner.
“I just try to be aggressive,’’ said the 6-3 Sosic, whose four key baskets down low went a long way in securing the Wildcats’ third victory in five games, four of which have been on the road. “We had a little size advantage, so we like to bang it in there in the post. I just try to display 110 percent all of the time. I’m not in there the whole game, but when I’m in there, I give it my all and try to take care of business.’’
After junior guards Tyler Hammond and Tom Parker gave Saint Ignatius an early offensive spark, Sosic helped key a strong second quarter by powering the ball up down low. His two second-effort baskets around the rim pushed the Wildcats’ lead to 25-12 and forced Lakewood coach Phil Argento to call a timeout with two minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the first half.
With Sosic and 6-4 senior post Dan Fox battling on the offensive glass and keeping the ball alive with hustle tips, Saint Ignatius led, 31-16, after Sosic converted an assist from sophomore forward Shonn Miller into a strong move along the baseline with 3:34 left in the third quarter.
“He’s strong, he battles, he’s fundamental,’’ said O’Toole of Sosic. “Nothing fancy, nothing off-balance, just brute strength and he gets his body in position to finish. You can live with a Vito Sosic all year round. Every mistake he ever makes is going to be an aggressive, hard-fought effort. You’re never going to question what he brings when he comes on the floor.’’
Lakewood, which slipped to 2-4 against a demanding schedule, showed its own strength late in the third quarter.
Sparked by the play of senior forward Dan Shannon and senior point guard Brian Evans, the Rangers cut a 15-point deficit to six points. A breakaway dunk by Miller gave Saint Ignatius an eight-point lead heading into the final eight minutes.
Shannon finished with a game-high 14 points and Evans scored 12. They also were a combined 9-for-9 from the foul line.
“We knew it was going to be a battle. They’re a very well coached team,’’ said O’Toole of Argento’s Rangers. “Offensively, they space you well, they attack you with the dribble well and they shoot it well. They have good basketball players, but maybe not as much depth. I thought our depth would wear them down and in the second quarter that was very evident.’’
That depth also came to the fore over the final eight minutes, as the Wildcats pulled away on a three-point play by Fox, a soft 5-footer by Miller off a Parker assist, a putback by Fox and another authoritative move down low by Sosic.
Saint Ignatius, which returns to Sullivan Gymnasium on Saturday night to renew its rivalry with Villa Angela-St. Joseph, out-rebounded Lakewood, 32-21. The Rangers were 12-of-17 from the foul line and the Wildcats hit on 12 of their 19 free throws. Fox led a balanced Saint Ignatius offense with 12 points and he also pulled down eight rebounds.
JV TEAM CONTINUES ITS WINNING WAYS: Coach Kevin Neitzel (’90) watched his junior-varsity team improve to 4-1 with a 70-61 triumph over the Lakewood jayvees.
Behind the scoring of guards Ryan Ivancic and Tom Leppla, the Wildcats stretched a three-point halftime lead to 36-26 with 5:28 remaining in the third quarter. Thanks to a layup by center Mason Halter off an assist from guard Rickey Brown, Saint Ignatius maintained a 10-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter. Halter’s strong work down low made it a 12-point game with less than two minutes gone in the fourth quarter.
Leppla, who was coming off a 33-point performance in a victory over Warren Harding’s junior varsity, led the way with 19 points and Ivancic finished with 12 points.
Villa Angela-St. Joseph vs. Saint Ignatius basketball recap
Posted on 1/03/09 at 11:58 p.m.
Defense, defense, defense; Wildcats hold Vikings under 30.
By Eddie Dwyer
The Saint Ignatius Wildcats realize they still have plenty of work to do, especially at the offensive end of the court.
That said, Wildcats coach Sean O’Toole was right when he emphasized that anytime you can hold a varsity basketball team to under 30 points you have to be happy.
Saturday night at Sullivan Gymnasium, the Wildcats fed off their defense from the get-go and wore down Villa Angela-St. Joseph, 49-29, as the cross-town rivals renewed their basketball series after not playing each other for the past four seasons.
With its defense generating most of its offense, Saint Ignatius improved to 4-2.VASJ, an inexperienced team that is also searching for some offensive punch, slipped to 1-6. Coach Dave Wojciechowski’s Vikings made their third consecutive appearance in the Division III state final four last season (a school record), but graduated the nucleus of that team.
“They have good athletes and like us they are a work in progress,’’ said O’Toole of VASJ. “They do good things, but shots aren’t falling. No one better take the Vikings lightly. As I told our team before the game, they’re like a wounded animal. And those are the scariest opponents.’’
Leading, 10-6, after the first eight minutes, the Wildcats became more aggressive in their half-court defense. Following a steal and a two-handed slam by sophomore forward Shonn Miller, the Wildcats led, 21-10, with four minutes, 48 seconds remaining in the first half.
Saint Ignatius, which rotated 11 players throughout most of the game, got three momentum-changing 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes en route to building a 12-point halftime lead. The three shots from beyond the arc were provided by Miller, senior forward Fred Schirmer and senior guard Joey Salata.
After junior guard Tom Parker put back his own shot and converted a steal into a layup, the Wildcats appeared to be taking command early in the third quarter. However, VASJ began attacking offensively and, thanks to five quick points by junior guard Josh Edmondson, trailed by 11 points with 4:18 left in the third quarter. A basket by Vikings senior forward Clinton Brewer made it an eight-point game late in the third quarter.
Saint Ignatius, sparked by another 3-pointer by Miller and a strong move to the basket by senior post Dan Fox, withstood the Vikings’ third-quarter charge and took a 14-point lead into the final eight minutes.
Applying a mixture of half-court and full-court pressure, the Wildcats pulled away on a 3-pointer by junior guard Tyler Hammond, a strong move down low by Miller and two free throws by Fox. Coach O’Toole then cleared his bench with just over two minutes remaining to be played.
Fox and Miller led the Wildcats’ offense with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Saint Ignatius out-rebounded VASJ, 34-25. Showing the way on the boards for the Wildcats was junior post Vito Sosic with six rebounds. Miller grabbed five rebounds and also blocked three shots.
“They’re athletic and they get to the rim,’’ said O’Toole of the Vikings’ third-quarter spurt. “And that’s good for us. We need to work on containing penetration, helping early on penetration, helping the helper and recovery out of that. But I thought we had a lot of good possessions tonight, defensively.’’
JAYVEES ON A LITTLE ROLL: Led by Tom Leppla's 23 points, the Wildcats' junior-varsity team defeated VASJ's JV squad, 65-42. Coach Kevin Neitzel's junior 'Cats have now won four in a row. Their only setback in six games was at Canton McKinley in Week 2.
Leppla, a sophomore guard, has totaled 75 points in his last three games.
After VASJ cut a 15-pont deficit to nine points with 5:23 left in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats regained control on a driving one-hander by guard Ryan Ivancic, a baseline jumper by Leppla, a layup by post Pat Gallagher and a crowd-pleasing, spinning one-handed drive down the lane by Ivancic.
Saint Edward-Saint Ignatius basketball recap
Posted on 1/17/09 at 1:30 a.m.
Defense, straight from the heart; Wildcats turn back the Eagles as several play major roles.
By Eddie Dwyer
Leaning against one of the walls in the Wirtz Pavilion, Saint Ignatius junior guard Tom Parker smiled and spoke of what the standing-room crowd in Sullivan Gymnasium on Friday night had just witnessed.
“That’s what we focus on in practice, all day, every day.’’ Parker said. “That’s Ignatius defense. We just play hard and this St. Eds game, with the rivalry, we played with our hearts. That’s how we’re able to play so hard on defense.’’
From the opening tipoff until a steal by junior guard Tyler Hammond with nine seconds remaining – a play that led to Hammond’s game-clinching free throws – a heart for defense was again the Wildcats’ seat of emotion.
Sean O’Toole (’87), who is in his first season as head basketball coach of his alma mater, watched his gritty ‘Cats turn back the tall and talented Saint Edward Eagles, 45-41.
Playing without senior post Dan Fox, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Saint Ignatius shook off a 12-day layoff and improved to 5-2. Fox, a Notre Dame football recruit and an All-Ohio safety on the Wildcats’ Division I state championship team, suffered a slight shoulder dislocation during practice last week. He is expected to be back in the lineup within a week or two.
“I didn’t think about the size (disadvantage),’’ said Saint Ignatius’ 6-3 junior post Vito Sosic, after he did an outstanding job defending against Eagles highly touted 6-foot-10 sophomore post James Price. “I tried to push him out of the paint. He’s so-so from midrange, so I just wanted to keep him out of the paint.’’
The good-natured Sosic, a kid who leaves everything he has on the court, not only helped limit Price to three points, but he also contributed five rebounds, two steals and 10 points, including a clutch layup that gave the Wildcats a 43-41 lead with 26 seconds left. In stopping a furious 10-0 run by the Eagles, Sosic battled for a loose ball, secured it and powered it up for two points with two defenders surrounding him.
“If we’re to win games, we have to defend,’’ said O’Toole, who will guide Saint Ignatius against another tall, deep and talented squad – the University School Preppers – tonight at US. “Hopefully our defense will create some offense. But we still want to score better than we have.
“Vito really stepped up tonight. It was a measurement game for us, with Danny out. I know that’s part of the game (injuries), but we asked everyone before the game to just step up one play. And we got that out of these guys tonight.’’
With Fox unable to play and standout senior guard Pat Hinkel in early foul trouble, the Wildcats rode a 3-pointer by senior forward Fred Schirmer, a layup by junior post Mark Myers off an assist from senior guard Joey Parris and a 3-pointer by gifted 6-5 sophomore forward Shonn Miller to a 13-7 lead after the first eight minutes.
Continuing to play an aggressive man-to-man, sagging defense, Saint Ignatius, on the strength of some strong offensive play down low by Sosic, a back-door layup by Miller and a 3-pointer by Parris, built a 10-point advantage in the second quarter. Saint Edward (8-4), sparked by the inside scoring of senior forward Jor’gio Alexander-Lacey, cut the deficit to 20-14 by halftime.
In what was a see-saw third quarter, the Wildcats held a nine-point lead thanks to another 3-pointer by Miller, two free throws by Sosic and a driving one-hander and two free throws by Parker. Miller’s 10 points tied Sosic for team scoring honors.
Coach Eric Flannery’s Eagles were not about to go away, however, as they closed to 29-24 behind the long-range shooting of junior forward Mike Corcoran.
Hinkel turned a picture-perfect assist from senior guard Joey Salata into a three-point play, Saint Edward sophomore guard/forward Delbert Love buried a 3-pointer and, after Miller turned a text-book assist from Parris into a two-handed slam, Saint Ignatius led, 34-27, entering the final eight minutes.
“Our guards do a great job defensively, too,’’ O’Toole said. “They start the pressure higher and wider. Our goal is to try to force teams to make decisions below their shoulder.’’
The Wildcats continued to apply pressure and moved to another 10-point lead on a breakaway layup in transition by Parker off a pass from Hammond that was right on the money, a layup by Sosic off a Parker assist and two free throws by Hinkel with 3:20 remaining.
It was at that point, however, that the Eagles picked up their trapping defense and went on a 10-run that featured a 3-pointer by freshman guard Myles Hamilton, a steal and a layup by Love and a 3-pointer by Love that tied the score with 46 seconds left. Love finished with a game-high 12 points, 10 of them coming in the second half.
After Sosic stopped the bleeding with his second-effort rebound, Hammond responded with his key steal near the left baseline of Saint Edward’s basket, was fouled and sealed the deal by draining his clutch free throws.
“That’s what we do every day in practice. We rotate and shoot free throws,’’ Hammond said. “So it’s just a regular basic thing. You block everybody out and do the same thing like in practice.’’
Hammond helped Saint Ignatius to a 13-for-16 performance from the foul line and Miller’s six rebounds showed the way to a 28-21 advantage off the boards. Saint Edward was 7-for-13 from the charity stripe.
“I grew up 10 houses from St. Eds, I appreciate St. Eds,’’ said O’Toole, who emphasized his head was still spinning, thinking about tonight’s game at US.
“I know St. Eds is a great school, I’m friends with Eric (Flannery) and my brother (Donnie) coaches there. There are a lot of special feelings, without question. But this is about our kids bonding together and trying to survive without Danny Fox, who does a lot of things for us. And everyone stepped up and played their role.’’
Saint Ignatius-University School basketball recap
Posted on 1/18/09 at 1:14 a.m.
The resilient ‘Cats do it again; Shonn Miller’s clutch free throws lead the way in a Saturday night thriller at University School.
By Eddie Dwyer
Speaking with the same calm and composure he displayed at the foul line, Saint Ignatius’ gifted forward Shonn Miller said the past two nights have been all about what his coach, Sean O’Toole (’87), stresses in practice every day.
“Coach talks about staying together,’’ Miller said. “It’s all about team chemistry, picking each other up when we’re down. I think that’s what got us through this game.’’
Yes, that, and a sophomore who had ice in his veins when called on to pick up his entire team and the Wildcats’ faithful.
Miller, hitting nothing but net on two free throws with two seconds remaining, lifted Saint Ignatius to a 46-45 victory over a talented and gritty University School team in Saturday night’s non-league basketball headliner on the Preppers’ home court.
The Wildcats, who were coming off an intense four-point victory over rival Saint Edward at Sullivan Gymnasium on Friday night, trailed by one point with four seconds on the clock.
With Saint Ignatius in-bounding the ball under its basket, Miller grabbed a lob pass about six-to-seven feet in front of the basket, attempted a jumper in the paint and was fouled.
As most of the large and enthusiastic crowd rose to its feet, Miller dropped both free throws through a net that hardly moved because of the soft rotations of the ball. The Wildcats improved to 6-2 after winning two dramatic games in less than 24 hours.
"I was kind of nervous,’’ said Miller after he finished with a team-high 11 points and totaled 21 points for the weekend. “But really, you just have to suck it up and make the free throws. We work on it all week in practice.’’
Saint Ignatius had to work for the entire 32 minutes against a University School team that lost for the fourth time in 13 games.
Along with Miller’s heroics, the Wildcats got a solid performance from 6-4 junior post Mark Myers, who scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. Myers and reliable 6-3 junior post Vito Sosic helped fill the void created by the shoulder injury to standout senior post Dan Fox.
After a three-point play by Myers and a strong move down low by Sosic, Saint Ignatius led, 17-10, with 5:48 remaining in the first half.
It was at that point, however, that the Preppers got their half-court offense in gear.
University School, behind a three-point play by multitalented 6-2 junior guard Richard Morrow and a 3-pointer by junior guard Harry Briggs, tied the score at 22 with 2:21 left in the half.
The Wildcats responded with a free throw by junior forward Rich Austin and a 3-pointer by Myers. However, after a driving one-hander by Preppers senior guard Nolan Thompson, Saint Ignatius clung to a two-point lead at halftime.
“I never really played the (post) position before this year,’’ said Myers, who will take over the quarterback reins this summer for the Wildcats’ defending Division I state champion football team. “I’m just getting started. Like tonight, I’m doing better and better every day at practice and working harder and harder.
“I really didn’t feel tired at all (after playing Saint Edward on Friday night). Just get a good night’s sleep and come back and do it again.’’
Neither team had difficulty calling on its second wind, as Saint Ignatius started the second half with a 6-0 run.
University School, which was coming off a 30-point victory over Solon on Tuesday night, closed to 32-30 on a three-point play by Morrow off a creative move down the lane and a free throw by Morrow. The silky-smooth Morrow finished with a game-high 15 points.
Sparked by a floating teardrop down the lane by junior point guard Tyler Hammond and some more hustle down low by Myers, the Wildcats took a seven-point lead into the final eight minutes.
No lead was safe in this one, however, as the Preppers put together another run that was fueled by Thompson’s 3-pointer and capped off by 3-pointers by sophomore guard Jack Bentz and Briggs. Briggs’ third 3-pointer of the night put University School in front, 42-40.
Saint Ignatius, which travels to Shaker Heights on Friday night, regained the lead, 44-43, on a soft jumper by Miller off Hammond’s fifth assist with 1:55 to go. Morrow’s two free throws put the Preppers back on top with 1:38 remaining, and not another point was scored until Miller stepped to the line with two clicks left on the clock.
“Shonn Miller, what can you say?’’ said Coach O’Toole, who also got some key contributions from junior guard Tom Parker, senior guards Joey Parris and Joey Salata, and senior forward Fred Schirmer. “I can’t say it enough, when you lose a kid like Danny Fox other kids have to step up.
“I can’t wait until we become a finished product. The kids realize we have room to get better, but we’re finding a way to win and this was a great road win. Hey, we also played basically the whole game without (senior guard) Pat Hinkel (foul trouble), and he’s a huge part of what we do. That’s resiliency at its best.’’
WILDCATS AND PREPPERS JUNIOR-VARSITY TEAMS SET THE TEMPO.
Before the varsity teams played their nail-biter, University School’s JV squad turned back Saint Ignatius’ junior varsity in overtime, 43-40.
The Wildcats trailed, 16-8, midway through the second quarter, but came back behind the hustle of guard Ryan Ivancic and post Pat Gallagher. Saint Ignatius led, 29-28, after Gallagher converted an assist from forward Zach Strippy into a layup with 3:02 remaining in the fourth quarter. Gallagher led the ‘Cats with 12 points.
After calling a timeout with five seconds left in regulation, Saint Ignatius forced the overtime on a strong and smooth buzzer-beating, driving one-hander by Ivancic.
In overtime, the Wildcats (5-3) trailed, 41-40, after guard Greg Kurtz hit a 3-pointer. The Preppers held on behind two pressure free throws by forward Mitchell Black with 11 seconds remaining.
Saint Ignatius-Shaker Heights basketball recap
Posted on 1/24/09 at 1:42 a.m.
‘Cats continue to pick each other up; Tom Parker and Mark Myers highlight another will-to-win performance.
By Eddie Dwyer
OK, you’re without two of your top five players – senior post Dan Fox (shoulder injury) and sophomore forward Shonn Miller (ill). And, one of the key components in your backcourt rotation, senior Joey Parris, is visiting the Air Force Academy this weekend.
Is it time to be concerned? Well, maybe a little.
But then Saint Ignatius coach Sean O’Toole (’87) appreciates the fact he is coaching a bunch of hard-nosed, strong-willed young men, players who know how to play within themselves and, most importantly, as a team.
The Wildcats, behind another relentless defensive effort keyed by junior guard Tom Parker and the continued development of versatile junior post/forward Mark Myers, turned back a talented Shaker Heights team, 55-50, on Friday night in Shaker’s Raider Dome.
With Parker playing exceptional half-court defense against Raiders multitalented senior guard Anthony Wells and the 6-4 Myers coming up with game highs of 18 points and eight rebounds, Saint Ignatius improved to 7-2.
After winning their fifth consecutive game, the Wildcats boarded their bus and headed to Cincinnati for a night’s sleep. Coach O’Toole will guide his team against host Saint Xavier (6-6) tonight in a 6 p.m. matchup of Jesuit schools. The junior-varsity game is slated for 4:30 p.m.
“We had Shonn sick, Danny’s hurt, okay, the next guy step up. Mark (Myers), it’s your turn,’’ O’Toole said, after he matched wits with Shaker Heights veteran coach Bob Wonson (358 career victories). “Mark’s been working so hard to get into the rhythm of what we’re doing. He’s a dual weapon. He can score at the rim and he can knock down the 3-pointer.
“Mark has really become a factor for us. He stretches defenses and he rebounds. Now you add him with Shonn and Danny, it’s going to be a nice combination.’’
As was the case in their previous six victories, the Wildcats got solid contributions throughout their roster. None was more important, however, than the spirited defense the 5-11 Parker brought to the court.
“Anthony Wells is the best scoring guard in this area,’’ said O’Toole of the 6-1 Cleveland State recruit, a player who has surpassed 1,000 points for his career and entered Friday night’s game averaging nearly 25 points. “And to hold him to four points!
“Now it’s a team defense, everyone helped. But it was the energy Tommy exuded making (Wells) work for his touches and making him work when he had the ball. We don’t win without that effort and that energy. Tommy really did a great job.’’
On the strength of four 3-pointers, including two by junior point guard Tyler Hammond, Saint Ignatius held a 14-8 lead after the first eight minutes.
Shaker Heights (6-7), sparked by a 3-pointer by guard Darvelis Tolliver, cut the deficit to one point early in the second quarter.
The Wildcats responded with a layup by Parker off a Hammond assist, the second of three 3-pointers by senior forward Fred Schirmer and two free throws by junior post/forward Rich Austin. With Myers scoring 12 points in the first 16 minutes, including two 3-pointers, Saint Ignatius led, 30-23, at halftime.
Led by Schirmer's three baskets from beyond the arc, the Wildcats were 7-of-16 on 3-pointers. The Raiders attempted 17 3-pointers, but connected on just three of them.
“That’s Fred’s role, he knows it,’’ O’Toole said of Schirmer's long-range shooting. “He needs to defend, needs to rebound and all of that. But when he gets out there and gets a look, he needs to just knock it down. We run (plays) for him because he’s a great shooter. We want him to get shots.’’
In what was one of its most complete quarters of the season, Saint Ignatius, fueled by its defense, some second-effort work down low by Myers and 6-3 junior post Vito Sosic, and Schirmer’s third 3-pointer, took a 15-point lead into the final eight minutes. The strong and steady Sosic scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds.
Shaker Heights was not about to call it a night.
As any area gym rat knows, Lake Erie League teams always play with pride down the stretch, especially when they’re defending their home court.
The Raiders, behind the scoring of sophomore forward Otis Barrow and freshman guard Terry Rozier, came storming back and trailed, 52-50, after Rozier buried a 3-pointer and Barrow hit a soft jumper high off the glass with just over a minute remaining. Rozier scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, Tolliver finished with 13 points and Barrow scored seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter.
Withstanding Shaker Heights’ late flurry, Saint Ignatius answered with a clutch driving one-hander by senior guard Pat Hinkel with 47 seconds to go and a free throw by Hammond that was sandwiched by key defensive plays by Parker and senior guard Joey Salata.
“When push comes to shove, we’re at the end of our rope and we need a play, there’s Pat Hinkel going to the rim and finishing,’’ O’Toole said. “And that teaches the younger players. They learn from his example.’’
Parker, who helped limit Wells to two first-half baskets, pointed out that he played against Wells in summer leagues and has nothing but respect for the Raiders’ gifted backcourt player.
“I love his game,’’ Parker said. “I just tried to play as hard as he plays.’’
PLAYING LIKE YOU PRACTICE: Myers, who also is one of Northeast Ohio’s top quarterback prospects in football, pointed out that the Wildcats’ strong showing from the perimeter on Friday night could be the result of a drill the team does in practice.
“It’s called '80 and 80,'’’ Myers said. “You just shoot 3-pointers. It’s usually juniors against seniors, and whoever loses out has to do pushups.’’
Saint Ignatius-Saint Xavier Basketball Recap
Posted on 1/24/09 at 10:20 p.m.
Wildcats struggle to find their rhythm down the stretch; Bombers dominate the fourth quarter.
After playing three quarters of solid basketball, including an impressive first half, the Saint Ignatius Wildcats saw it slip away over the final eight minutes on Saturday night.
The Saint Xavier Bombers, taking advantage of second-chance points in the paint, eight crucial points by junior Luke Massa and three key turnovers by the Wildcats, rallied from a 12-point deficit after three quarters and defeated Saint Ignatius, 58-52, in a non-league headliner at Saint Xavier.
Trailing, 46-34, the Bombers picked up their defensive pressure and outscored the Wildcats, 24-6, in the fourth quarter. Saint Xavier, which was coming off a 30-point loss at Cincinnati La Salle on Friday night, improved its record to 7-6.
Saint Ignatius, which again was playing without its two leading scorers – senior post Dan Fox (shoulder injury) and junior forward Shonn Miller (flu) – lost for just the third time in 10 games. The Wildcats entered Saturday night’s Jesuit-school matchup on a five-game winning streak.
“With a 12-point lead, you want the clock to be your ally,’’ said Saint Ignatius coach Sean O’Toole (’87). “You’re trying to be patient and work for high-percentage shots. But they did a great job defensively, forcing turnovers, and we had some unforced turnovers.
“No matter who didn’t play, the bottom line is that we gave this one away.’’
The Wildcats, who defeated host Shaker Heights by five points on Friday night, came out strong and made themselves right at home on the Bombers’ court.
On the strength of a 3-pointer and a putback by junior point guard Tyler Hammond, another 3-pointer by Hammond and junior guard Kyle Wise’s third 3-pointer, Saint Ignatius moved to a 32-22 lead late in the first half.
After senior forward Fred Schirmer buried his second basket from beyond the 3-point arc, the Wildcats took an 11-point lead into their locker room at halftime. Saint Ignatius hit seven 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes and shot nearly 60 percent from the field in the first half.
In what was a third quarter dominated by defense, the Wildcats, behind a three-point play by senior guard Pat Hinkel, outscored the Bombers, 9-8. But Saint Xavier cut Saint Ignatius’ 12-point lead in half with less than two minutes gone in the fourth quarter.
Wildcats junior post Mark Myers responded with a three-point play that pushed Saint Ignatius’ advantage to 49-40 with 6:16 remaining to be played. Myers’ effort was the last field goal the Wildcats would score.
Two free throws by Hinkel gave Saint Ignatius a 52-44 lead with 2:44 left. It was at that point, however, that Massa stepped up big time.
Massa, a 6-5 guard/forward, hit his second 3-pointer of the fourth quarter, a shot that made it a five-point game with 2:31 to go. His third 3-pointer of the quarter cut the deficit to two points with 1:51 remaining.
A turnover by the Wildcats led to the tying basket – a layup by Bombers 6-3 junior guard Alex Longi with 54 seconds left – and Massa’s steal and layup with 33 seconds on the clock put Saint Xavier ahead to stay. That was all part of a 14-0 run that also included two clutch free throws by Longi off a steal by 6-7 senior post Erik Stenger.
The Bombers got a game-high 18 points from Stenger, with 16 of those points coming in the first half. Stenger throw in a buzzer-beating, length-of-the-court basket that cut the Wildcats’ lead to 17-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Saint Ignatius, which will host two games next weekend – Erie Cathedral Prep on Friday night and Strongsville on Saturday night, was led by Hammond’s 16 points, 12 of which came in the first half.
The Wildcats ended up shooting 42.5 percent from the field and Saint Xavier, which got 28 points in the paint, had a 48.9 percentage from the field. Both teams were 10-of-14 from the free-throw line.
- Eddie Dwyer
Strongsville versus Saint Ignatius basketball recap
Posted on 2/01/09 at 12:50 a.m.
Carrying out the game plan; an unselfish approach helps the Wildcats corral the Mustangs on a special Saturday night.
By Eddie Dwyer
In his Saturday homily during Saint Ignatius’ pre-game Mass, Father John Murphy told the players that each one of them has a special place in the total makeup of the team, that all of the pieces have to fit together.
A few hours later, the Wildcats took the floor in Sullivan Gymnasium and physically displayed the message Fr. Murphy delivered so eloquently.
Saint Ignatius, with the sum of its parts being more than a tall and talented Strongsville club could handle, wore down the Mustangs, 63-43, in a matchup of two of the area’s top 25 teams.
The Wildcats, behind some crisp passing, a balanced offense and another relentless effort on defense, improved to 9-3. Strongsville, which was coming off a stunning loss at Mayfield on Friday night, slipped to 8-5. Saint Ignatius entered the game ranked sixth in The Plain Dealer’s seven-county poll and the Mustangs were ranked 16th.
“By no means are we not going to take what they give us,’’ said Wildcats coach Sean O’Toole (’87) after his team completed a 2-0 weekend. “They came out and zoned us, and we were patient. We’re getting better and better each night at sharing the basketball.
“If we have an opportunity to score, but there is a better opportunity, we’re learning how to make that one dish, that extra pass, and it’s paying dividends. People are playing their roles.’’
Strongsville, which had a distinct height advantage over the Wildcats, came out aggressive and took a 6-0 lead.
Undaunted, Saint Ignatius stuck to its game plan.
Behind the 3-point shooting of sophomore forward Shonn Miller and senior forward Fred Schirmer, and a soft one-hander down the lane by junior point guard Tyler Hammond, the Wildcats held a 12-8 advantage after the first quarter.
After the Mustangs cut the deficit to one point, Saint Ignatius began displaying the ball movement that Hammond described as being so important in Coach O’Toole’s offense.
Working the ball around the perimeter, the Wildcats moved to a 20-13 lead on two more 3-pointers by Schirmer that almost brought rain, or should we say snow?
Strongsville, which was 15-of-30 from the free-throw line against Mayfield, hit its first seven free throws on Saturday night and again cut the deficit to one point with 1:42 remaining in the first half. The Mustangs were 16-of-19 from the charity stripe and Saint Ignatius hit on six of its 10 free throws.
Hammond, whose role of running the offense drew praise from Coach O’Toole, gave the Wildcats a 26-21 halftime lead by burying two of his three 3-pointers in the final minute of the second quarter. Saint Ignatius hit six of its seven 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes.
“No matter how you define it, we do get some run outs and some easy ones (baskets) because of the pressure, playing in the passing lanes and creating turnovers,’’ said O’Toole after his defense limited another opponent to under 50 points. Seven times this season Strongsville has scored 70 or more points.
“We had only seven turnovers, which means we were getting plenty of shot attempts, which is great,’’ O’Toole said. “We were down 6-0 right at the beginning, but then we got it to the rim three straight times. If we get it to the rim, we feel we have a chance to be successful, that it will open up some of the perimeter looks.’’
In the second half, the Wildcats, said Hammond, made a concerted effort to pass the ball inside and, if nothing was there, work it back outside. That patient and fluid ball movement seemed to draw the taller Mustangs into a gambling defense.
After two strong moves down low by senior post Dan Fox and a three-point play by junior guard Tom Parker off a turnover, Saint Ignatius led, 33-21, with 6:38 remaining in the third quarter.
The Mustangs would close to eight points, only to have the Wildcats respond with a crowd-pleasing, spinning one-hander down the lane by Miller and another 3-pointer by Hammond.
Saint Ignatius, which travels to Walsh Jesuit next Saturday night, took command on a clever reverse layuup along the baseline by Hammond, a three-point play by Fox off his offensive rebound, another three-point play by Parker – this time off two exceptional passes by senior guards Pat Hinkel and Joey Salata – and a follow by Parker.
Leading, 48-29, entering the final eight minutes, the Wildcats settled the issue on a layup by junior forward Mark Myers off an assist by Hinkel, a follow by Miller and a driving one-hander by Hammond.
Hammond finished with a game-high 15 points, Parker and Fox each scored 10 and Schirmer had nine points on three 3-pointers.
Saint Ignatius out-rebounded Strongsville, 37-26. Fox and Hinkel each grabbed six rebounds, junior post Vito Sosic pulled down five and Parker and Miller each picked off four off the glass.
The Wildcats, who limited Erie Cathedral Prep to 36 points on Friday night, entered the weekend yielding just 47.4 points per game.
JUNIOR VARSITY MAKES IT TWO IN A ROW
Behind 25 points by post Rich Austin, the Wildcats’ junior-varsity team overpowered the Mustangs’ jayvees, 70-47, and improved to 7-5 on the season.
The 6-5 Austin played less than three quarters before going to the locker room to prepare for the varsity game.
Supporting Austin were guard Rickey Brown, who scored 13 points and created several turnovers with his defensive hustle, guard Jack Tupa (10 points) and guard Greg Kurtz (eight points).
Saint Ignatius-Saint Edward basketball recap
Posted on 2/14/09 at 1:03 a.m.
Wildcats and Eagles go down to the wire; Saint Edward earns a split in the season series at the Eagles Nest.
By Eddie Dwyer
A lot of basketball coaches would have been pointing to the last sequence that occurred in Friday night’s non-league headliner between Saint Ignatius and St. Edward, and wondering out loud why a call wasn’t made.
However, Wildcats coach Sean O’Toole (’87), just moments after his team was turned away by the host Eagles, 48-46, preferred to look at everything that led up to the final 16.8 seconds.
“It never comes down to one play,’’ O’Toole said after Saint Ignatius lost for the fourth time in 14 games. “I can think of hundred things – different possessions throughout the game, shots in the first half that we didn’t take and good shots that weren’t falling.’’
After Saint Edward 6-4 senior forward Jor’gio Alexander-Lacey hit one of two free throws with 16.8 ticks remaining, the Wildcats, trailing by two points, worked the ball down court and attempted two shots underneath their basket – shots that were definitely partially blocked, but shots that also appeared to draw some contact. The officials didn’t see anything that warranted a whistle, time expired and the Eagles avenged the Jan. 16th four-point loss to Saint Ignatius.
“The bottom line is that we got good looks (earlier in the game) that didn’t go, and that’s going to happen some nights,’’ said O’Toole.
The Wildcats were 18-of-49 from the field and 10-of-19 from the free-throw line. Normally a decent 3-point shooting team, Saint Ignatius was 0-for-13 from beyond the arc. Saint Edward hit on 14 of its 37 shots, three of which were 3-pointers by sophomore guard Delbert Love, and Coach Eric Flannery’s team was 17-of-30 from the charity stripe.
Entering the game as the fifth-ranked team in The Plain Dealer Top 25, seven-county poll, the Wildcats used an 8-0 run in taking a 13-7 lead into the second quarter.
Saint Ignatius pushed its advantage to eight points on two free throws by junior post Vito Sosic with four minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the first half. The 6-3 Sosic had a strong game at both ends of the court and led the Wildcats with 14 points, including 10 in the second half.
Saint Edward, on the strength of four quick points by Alexander-Lacey, cut the deficit to 22-18 by halftime. The Eagles (12-5), ranked 10th by The Plain Dealer, made just three baskets from the field in the first half and were 12-of-20 from the free-throw line in the first 16 minutes.
“Price really showed up in the second half, he killed us,’’ said OToole of Saint Edward’s highly regarded 6-10 sophomore post James Price. “They went to him, they fed him and he responded. He hit free throws, he hit turnaround jumpers. We were trying to get him away from the basket and he was hitting 12- and 15-footers. I commend him.’’
Saint Ignatius, which takes on another big front line tonight when it hosts Rhodes at 7:30 in Sullivan Gymnasium, got some more strong work down low by Sosic and built its lead back up to eight points midway through the third quarter.
The Eagles kept their composure, however, and, after Love buried his second 3-pointer of the quarter, trailed by just two points entering the final eight minutes. Love scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
Riding the momentum of Love’s 3-pointer, Saint Edward turned to Price and he was right with two soft turnaround jumpers that gave the Eagles a 36-34 lead early in the fourth quarter. Price finished with a game-high 15 points, 12 coming in the second half.
The Wildcats, who are seeded fourth at next month’s Division I sectional/district at Warrensville Heights, responded with another second-effort move down low by Sosic and regained the lead on a putback by junior guard Tom Parker. After a steal and four free throws by junior point guard Tyler Hammond, Saint Ignatius led, 42-36, with 4:19 left.
The final four minutes featured a roller-coaster of emotions, as Saint Edward closed to 42-40 on a back-door layup by senior forward Jack Wooley and another nothing-but-net jumper by Price.
Saint Ignatius answered with a putback by 6-4 senior post Dan Fox and again led by six points after 6-4 sophomore forward Shonn Miller converted an assist by Fox into a smooth reverse layup along the baseline.
However, just when the Wildcats appeared to be grabbing the stretch-run momentum, Fox picked up a tough fifth foul.
Saint Edward, with Price hitting four clutch free throws, cut the deficit to two points with 1:43 to go. After a turnover by Saint Ignatius, the Wildcats, focusing their attention on Price, were hurt by an open 3-pointer by Love that put the Eagles in front, 47-46, with 1:08 remaining.
Following another turnover, Alexander-Lacey split his free throws and the hectic final 16.8 seconds ended with the Saint Ignatius coaching staff pleading for a foul call.
“We left the ball there, you can’t leave the ball,’’ said O’Toole of the defensive breakdown on Love’s third 3-pointer. “I understand we’re worried about Price, but obviously we have a great respect for Love. We certainly didn’t want to give him an open look.’’
O’Toole, who emphasized that he, his staff and his players will find out what they’re made of tonight when they look to rebound against Rhodes, saw his team out-rebound the Eagles, 31-29. Saint Edward will enter next month’s tournament play as the No. 1 seed in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights sectional/district.
‘CATS JUNIOR VARSITY AVENGES LOSS TO EAGLES.
Coach Kevin Neitzel (’90) watched his team take an early seven-point lead and never fold as the JV ‘Cats split their season series with Saint Edward’s jayvees, 44-35.
Leading by five points entering the fourth quarter, the Wildcats (9-5) began to pull away on a 3-pointer by guard Greg Kurtz, a steal by Kurtz, a soft, driving one-hander high off the glass by point guard Ryan Ivancic and a free throw by post Pat Gallagher.
Saint Ignatius then settled the issue behind some staunch defense and clutch free-throw shooting by Ivancic and Kurtz.
Guard Tom Leppla tossed in 11 points for the Wildcats and Kurtz and post Rich Austin each scored 10 points.
Rhodes-Saint Ignatius basketball recap
Posted on 2/15/09 at 12:22 a.m.
‘Cats rebound from a tough loss; 14 players hit the scoring column in a 17-point triumph over Rhodes.
By Eddie Dwyer
After his team suffered a two-point loss at Saint Edward on Friday night, a setback that prevented a season-series sweep of the Eagles, Saint Ignatius coach Sean O’Toole said he and his staff would find out what the Wildcats are made of.
Well, they got their answer in less than 24 hours.
The Wildcats, setting the tempo from the get-go on Saturday night, wore down a talented Rhodes team, 82-65, in a non-league matchup in Sullivan Gymnasium.
Saint Ignatius, putting together its best offensive output of the season, improved to 11-4 and, in the process, drew a huge smile of praise from its head coach.
“I’m so proud of these guys,’’ said O’Toole (’87), who is in his first season as the Wildcats’ basketball mentor. “To come off a tough loss against your top rival on the road, a game we felt we played good enough to win or at least had a chance to win, and now you have to bounce back against a very good, very athletic basketball team.
“We just came out of the gun, shared the ball and got ourselves some easy buckets. Defensively, I was very proud. At halftime, they had 19 (points). So we’re right where we want them.’’
Rhodes, which was hoping to establish some momentum for the postseason tournament by upsetting the Wildcats on their home floor, led, 5-4, after guard/forward Kevin Jenkins buried a 3-pointer in the early going.
The Rams’ lead was short-lived, as Saint Ignatius responded with a 3-pointer by senior post Dan Fox and two free throws by senior guard/forward Pat Hinkel. On the strength of a 3-pointer and two free throws by senior guard Joey Parris and some relentless half-court defense, the Wildcats led, 18-11, after the first eight minutes.
It was more of the same in the second quarter.
A basket by Fox, a steal and a layup by junior guard Tom Parker and a soft, driving one-hander by Parker pushed Saint Ignatius’ lead to 24-11. The Wildcats moved to a 15-point advantage on a layup by junior post Vito Sosic off an assist by Fox, and a three-point play by senior point guard Joey Salata had Coach O’Toole’s team in command.
“We had to move on from there,’’ said Sosic, referring to the Saint Edward game. “We made a lot of mistakes and after the game it was tough. But, we just have to keep playing hard. Defense is our MO and what did we have tonight, 82 points? That’s great.’’
With Sosic and Fox continuing to hurt Rhodes down low and Coach O’Toole going to his bench early and often, Saint Ignatius extended a 17-point halftime lead to 48-28 on a three-point play by Parker and a coast-to-coast layup by Fox. After junior guards Owen Callahan and Kyle Wise came up with 3-pointers and junior point guard Tyler Hammond hit a smooth jumper from the left baseline, the Wildcats took a 20-point lead into the final eight minutes.
“There are kids that work very hard with us in practice each day and they deserve to play,’’ said O’Toole, who utilized 15 players and had 14 of them end up in the scorebook. “If I get the chance, I play them. The problem is that our schedule is so brutal. We were just fortunate that we got them some extended minutes tonight, because they have earned it.’’
Working primarily against Rhodes’ starting rotation, O’Toole’s third rotation featured 10 points and six rebounds by junior post Rich Austin, eight points by senior post Brad Rabal and six assists by senior guard Mike Tupa.
Fox led the Wildcats with 11 points while playing slightly more than two quarters. He, Parker and Sosic were a combined 12-of-13 from the field, and Austin hit all five of his shots. Jenkins was one of the Rams’ few bright spots, as he finished with a game-high 20 points.
JUNIOR VARSITY IS RAM-TOUGH.
The Wildcats’ junior-varsity team improved to 10-5 by defeating Rhodes, 60-36.
Saint Ignatius moved to a 14-6 lead on a three-point play by freshman guard Jack Tupa with two minutes, nine seconds remaining in the first quarter.
A three-point play by sophomore post Pat Gallagher off a slick assist by sophomore point guard Ryan Ivancic, a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Tom Leppla and a putback by Austin, who alternates between the junior varsity and varsity, extended the Wildcats’ advantage to 29-11 late in the second quarter.
On the strength of a one-handed slam dunk along the baseline by Austin and a driving one-hander by Tupa, Coach Kevin Neitzel’s team led, 34-15, at halftime.
Saint Ignatius came out in the third quarter and settled the issue on a layup by sophomore forward Zach Strippy off an Ivancic assist, a strong move down low by Strippy, a basket by Ivancic off a Strippy assist, and another second-effort move inside by Strippy.
Stories posted the weekend of Feb. 21-22
Olmsted Falls-Saint Ignatius basketball recap; defensive-fueled run sets the tempo and Miller’s offense helps tell the tale.
By Eddie Dwyer
Saint Ignatius’ gifted and soft spoken sophomore forward Shonn Miller said the Wildcats are all about “sticking together and playing defense.’’
Saturday night at Sullivan Gymnasium, Saint Ignatius got it together after a shaky start and, behind some outstanding play by Miller and another defensive-fueled run, defeated a talented Olmsted Falls team, 68-38.
The Wildcats, who took control with a 16-0 surge in the first half, improved to 13-4 and substantiated their eighth-place ranking in The Plain Dealer’s Top 25, seven-county poll.