O’Hara’s steal, layup seals deal versus EC
Division III boys basketball
By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Elyria Catholic High School boys basketball team won the first half of every quarter in regulation play Tuesday night, but Lutheran West never gave up and pushed the Division III playoff game to two overtime periods.
In the second overtime, Lutheran West held a precarious 63-62 lead with 39.7 seconds left on the clock and Elyria Catholic with the ball, then the unthinkable happened. Elyria Catholic had its offense set for the last shot, but Longhorns junior Andrew O’Hara stepped into a pass, stole the ball and ran down the court for an uncontested layup to put the final nail into EC’s coffin.
O’Hara had chances to win the game for Lutheran West at the end of regulation, and near the end of the first overtime period, but those shots did not go down.
“We had a lot of chances to finish the game in regulation and the first OT – the ball didn’t bounce our way I guess – but we came out and persevered,” O’Hara said. “We had to play through it – we knew we had to – and we pulled it off.
Lutheran West has been played in many close games this season, which may have helped the team push through come playoff time.
“We’ve been down in games, in the fourth quarter, all season long,” O’Hara continued. “We’ve been down by 14 at the half in a couple games (this season).
“We were down by four at the half in this game, and we knew we could run them down the court, and we did our best to just push the ball all the time. We had great defense and made some big shots.”
O’Hara led the Longhorns with 17 points, followed by Max Quinn, who dropped in 15, including four crucial points in the first overtime to keep it a tie game. Quinn was almost at a loss for words following the conclusion of the game.
“We’re so excited,” he said. “I’m ecstatic, exhausted … everything.
“I’ve worked my butt off all year for this. I played my butt off the whole game, an I’m just happy we pulled out the win. They played us really tough, but I’m happy we pulled it off.”
Lutheran West never held a lead in the game, until the first overtime period, but the Longhorns never let EC get out of striking distance.
“(Elyria Catholic) is a very good team,” Lutheran West head coach Alan Januzzi said. “They had a huge win over Youngstown Ursuline going into this game, and you knew they would carry that momentum into tonight.
“We had trouble stopping (EC’s Jeremy Holley) early on, and dug ourselves a hole, but our kids just persevered. They didn’t get discouraged and kept battling. Their determination is ultimately what got us to the point to get it to overtime, and the momentum to eventually win the game.”
Elyria Catholic was led by Holley, who scored 22 points, followed by teammate James Tirbaso, who scored 21. Januzzi knew the Longhorns had to corral those two players late in the game to pull off the victory.
“We came out in the third quarter and tried to zone up on them a little bit,” he explained. “We put somebody in front and somebody behind, because it seemed like we couldn’t stop them.”
The Longhorns (19-4) go on to face No. 2 seed Beachwood on Friday in the sectional championship game at Beachwood High School at 7 p.m.
For more on the Longhorns Patriot Athletic Conference-Stripes Division championship, pick up a copy of West Side Sports on your newsstand on March 5.