MENTOR - It was another long bus ride to a North Coast League opponent Friday night for Elyria Catholic, and Panthers coach Alan Januzzi was worried about how his team would respond at the start of the game.
There was no need for concern though, as the Panthers looked energized and went toe to toe with Lake Catholic during a first quarter that saw four lead changes.
Januzzi may have to switch his attention to the middle quarters, where once again a long scoring drought wiped out the Panthers’ chances.
Elyria Catholic went scoreless nearly 14 minutes between the second and third quarters - nearly being shut out in the third - as the Cougars rolled to a 66-44 victory.
Lake Catholic (8-4, 5-2 NCL) outscored the Panthers 24-0 during the span, turning an Elyria Catholic 20-19 lead two minutes into the second quarter into a 43-20 Cougars lead before senior Nick Ksenich’s layup with 20 seconds left in the third finally ended the run.
The Panthers were victims of a 20-0 run between the middle quarters during a 52-35 road loss to Trinity four games ago.
“I was concerned that they might come out flat, but we came out playing well,” Januzzi said. “We struggled in those middle quarters because we just couldn’t make any shots. I thought we were getting good shots, they just weren’t going in.
“If you don’t make the shots that you work so hard for, it kills your motivation.”
Januzzi’s son, senior point guard Joe Januzzi, provided the spark for the Panthers (2-12, 1-7) in the early going. Joe Januzzi hit a pair of 3-pointers, a mid-range jumper and a driving layup for 10 points in the opening quarter. He added two more threes and four free throws in the fourth quarter to finish with a game-high 20 points.
“He was definitely looking to score,” Januzzi said. “When he was out with an injury for a few games, we were able to bring Clay (Jerge) in for him and that got Clay some valuable experience. Now we can sub Clay in when Joe needs a rest and that’s just another positive for our team.
“We’ve picked up a lot of little positives like that as the season’s gone on. We’re just hoping that those positives add up to some victories before the end of the season.”
The Panthers also got a big performance from junior forward Conor Voreis, who matched Januzzi’s 10 first-half points with several hard-fought jumpers near the basket. But Voreis picked up his third foul just seconds into the second half and was on the bench for most of the Panthers’ third-quarter struggles.
“Conor had a great game finishing inside,” Januzzi said. “But then he got into foul trouble and you have to sit him down and he gets out of rhythm and maybe loses a little bit of his focus.”
That couldn’t be said for the Cougars, who shot 51 percent (26-of-51), took better care of the ball (nine turnovers to EC’s 14) and outrebounded the Panthers 35-20. That was the key to the win, according to Lake Catholic coach Mark Chicone.
“Rebounding on both ends was big for us,” Chicone said. “We’ve struggled to be consistent in that department all season. Sometimes we do well on the offensive end, but not defensive. Sometimes we do good on defense, but not offense.
“Tonight, we were getting the job done on both ends of the floor.”
The Cougars also did a good job adjusting to the Panthers during the game. After Joe Januzzi’s first-quarter tear, Chicone called for a full-court press and switched from man-to-man to a zone defense.
“We mixed it up,” he said. “I don’t know what the ratio of zone to man was, but we tried to go back and forth.”
The other thing that both coaches agreed was a big factor in the outcome of the game was Lake Catholic’s ability to drive to the basket and pick up fouls when they didn’t make the easy layups.
“Last year, we tried to launch a three nearly every time down the court,” Chicone said. “So it’s nice to see them trying to get the ball to the basket. Maybe that’s just the kids being a bit older and wiser. We still shoot the three, but our intention now is to go inside out.”
Januzzi said the switch in offensive game plan definitely affected the Panthers.
“Our primary focus was to defend the three,” he said. “Then they came out and attacked the rim well. I think that we’d have to come out and play a perfect game to beat a team like that.
“Even if we’d have made those shots during that run, I’m not sure we’d have come out with a win. It’d probably have been a lot closer though.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lake Catholic 66, Elyria Catholic 44
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (44): Joe Januzzi 6-4-20, M.J. Lotko 1-0-2, Joe Dempsey 0-0-0, Clay Jerge 0-0-0, Nick Ksenich 1-0-2, Conor Voreis 6-1-13, Adam Kirsch 1-0-2, Spencer Roule 1-0-2, Kyle Robinson 0-1-1, Sergio Montanez 1-0-2. Totals 17-6-44.
TRINITY (66): Bryan Zimmerman 0-0-0, Mike Eiswerth 1-1-3, Anthony Covelli 7-1-16, Dylan O’Donnell 5-5-15, Jerrod Ronyak 3-3-9, Mike Whalen 3-0-7, Andrew Forrai 0-0-0, John Bayer 2-0-5, Scott Edelman 0-0-0, Carl Ruuska 0-0-0, Pat Speth 0-0-0, Joey Vuyancih 5-1-11. Totals 26-11-66.
Elyria Catholic 12 8 2 22 - 44
Trinity 13 18 15 20 - 66
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 4 of 9 (Januzzi 4); Lake Catholic 3 of 14 (Covelli, Whalen, Bayer). Field goals: Elyria Catholic 17 of 42 (40 percent); Lake Catholic 26 of 51 (51 percent). Free throws: Elyria Catholic 6 of 9 (67 percent); Lake Catholic 11 of 15 (73 percent). Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 20 (Roule, Montanez 4); Lake Catholic 35 (O’Donnell 9). Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 14; Lake Catholic 9. Fouled out: None. Total fouls: Elyria Catholic 13, Lake Catholic 12.
Junior varsity: Lake Catholic 67, Elyria Catholic 36.