CUYAHOGA FALLS: It was high school basketball as it was meant to be.
The gymnasium at Walsh Jesuit was packed tighter than Macy’s on Black Friday, and the Walsh and Archbishop Hoban student sections bordered on the wild and crazy. Both teams were relentless in getting to the basket. Both gave up ground begrudgingly. Players took charges and sacrificed their bodies for the full 32 minutes shrouded in intensity thicker than a milkshake.
Even the cheerleaders got into the action, challenging one another to a back-flip contest at practically every opportunity, much to the delight of the crowd.
Defense was the calling card until a little more than 11 seconds remained, when Hoban guard Christian Waite cashed in a 3-point basket with the coolness of a blackjack dealer, giving the Knights a 48-47 victory that protected their slim lead in the North Coast League’s Blue Division.
The win also gave Hoban (9-4, 5-1) a sweep of the season series with the Warriors (9-5, 3-2) in their attempt to unseat Walsh as league champs.
“I was getting many shots, but when I came off that screen, I kind of just felt it before I went up,” said Waite, who finished with a team-high 18 points. “I kind of felt it was my time to take the shot.”
His timing couldn’t have been more perfect as it enabled Hoban to rally from a 10-point deficit over the final 2:35. That came after Hoban had lost two six-point leads in the third quarter.
In a game of this nature, there is bound to be more than one hero, and Waite was not alone. Sophomore Anthony Christian scored five of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and had nine rebounds and two steals. Senior guard Michael Londa got Hoban off to a great start when he scored all 11 of his points in the first quarter, which ended with the Knights on top, 18-14.
“It just seemed to me that everybody we used did something to help,” Hoban coach T.K. Griffith said.
“They might not have scored, but they might have gotten a big rebound, gotten on the floor for a loose ball, made a defensive play. It was that kind of game.”
For Walsh, it was forward Dom Mittiga. The 6-3 junior was a presence the entire game, scoring 28 points, getting 10 rebounds and blocking three shots. Senior Max Siwik had eight points, six rebounds, two blocks and made a free throw with 22.9 seconds left that gave the Warriors a 47-45 lead.
Waite hit his 3-pointer on the next possession. After a timeout by each team, the Warriors had two shots at the basket but couldn’t get one to fall out of a traffic jam under the basket.
“It was a game of big plays, and their kid made a big one,” Walsh coach John Norris said.
“Both teams made big plays the whole game. They made just one more than we did.”
The score was tied at 33-33 after three quarters, and the Warriors were on the verge of making it a runaway by scoring 10 consecutive points.
Mittiga and Anthony Rozum each drained 3-pointers, Mitch Peterson scored on a layup after a loose ball, and Siwik scored on a layup off a perfect alley-oop pass from Rozum to give the Warriors a 43-33 lead.
“For a minute there, I thought they had knocked us out when they got in front by 10,” Griffith said. “But the kids didn’t stop fighting. They made plays. It was a great high school basketball game.”
Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps.