TOLEDO – In the Toledo City League making the city playoffs is everything. Jockeying for one of the four positions available in the playoffs is what every City League member plays for during the regular season and last night’s contest between Start and Central Catholic had huge implications in the battle for one of those spots. Unfortunately, neither team played like it and the resulting ho-hum affair was one by host Central Catholic 47-44.
The Irish jumped out to an early 4-0 lead but the Spartans came back with a vengeance behind the inside play of their junior post player, Devin Russell. Russell caused the Irish early match-up problems and Russell’s presence in the middle eventually caused the Irish to alter their offensive attack.
After trailing 4-0, the Spartans scored the next 9 points of the quarter and closed out the quarter with a 15-8 lead – a lead that they would hold until midway through the fourth quarter.
The quickness of the Spartans seemed to cause the Irish problems but, instead of slowing the game down in an effort to neutralize Start’s apparent advantage in quickness, Central coach Paul Patterson, spread his offense out in the second quarter and attempted to pick up the tempo.
“We were struggling early,” said Patterson. “They (Start) were getting good looks and we needed to shake things up. We picked up the tempo and they began to turn the ball over.”
The Irish change in strategy slowed down the Spartan attack as the turnovers piled up. Unfortunately, even though the Spartans began to turn the ball over with increasing frequency, the Irish were also lacking execution. The result was that Central was able to chip into the Spartan lead but only barely. By the end of the second quarter the Spartans still led, 21-18.
“We were tired. This is our third game in seven days and we don’t have the depth to play this often,” said Spartan coach Gil Guerrero. “We only go 7 or 8 deep and that is not enough.”
The teams continued their sloppy play in the third quarter. The Irish, after having three separate opportunities to go ahead, finally tied the score at 28-28 with just over three minutes remaining in the quarter. The Spartans, however, withstood the Irish assault, and behind a three pointer by senior Ottarreus Waller and a successful free throw, closed out the quarter with 4 straight points to enter the fourth quarter with a 32-28 advantage.
Commenting on the sloppy play both coaches cited the fact that it was a mid-week game but Central coach Patterson went further:
“I was afraid this would happen. We have only been back to school (after the Christmas break) for two days and this is our first mid-week game in a while. The kids have not adjusted to being back in school and having to play a game during the week. Tonight, it showed.”
The final quarter was not a good one for the visiting Spartans. After scoring the quarter’s first basket to extend their lead to 6 points Start faltered on their next four possessions while the Irish were converting on theirs. In just over two minutes the Irish successfully tied the score for the third time in the game at 34-34 and twenty seconds later took their first lead, 36-34, since early in the first quarter.
The lead exchanged hands several times over the final three minutes but down the stretch the Irish proved to be tougher as they eventually pulled away to secure a 47-44 win in the game’s last minute and a half.
The balanced Irish offensive attack saw seven players score, but only one, Bruce Huntley (16), reached double figures.
For the Spartans, three players reached double figures in scoring: Dwain Golladay led the way with 16, Ottarreus Waller added 12 and Anthony Henderson 11. Only one other player, however, scored for the Spartans.