A three-point halftime lead Monday night meant nothing to Catholic Central. Not when the opponent was Cedarville, a team the Irish had beaten twice in two close games.
“In the first half we didn’t come out with as much intensity and passion as we needed,” Irish senior Will Johnson said. “In the third quarter, we wanted to turn it on and put them away.”
Johnson scored six of his game-high 17 points in a 14-5 run to close the third quarter. The Irish held on in the fourth for a 56-45 victory in the first round of the Division IV sectional.
Central (10-13) plays either second-seeded Franklin Monroe or No. 10 Jefferson at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Troy High School in the semifinals.
When Central and Cedarville (10-13) drew each other in the first round it meant they would be playing twice in the space of five days. Central beat Cedarville 56-51 last week. So seeing each other again wasn’t such a bad thing in a sectional with highly regarded teams like Tri-Village, Franklin Monroe, Troy Christian and Bethel.
“You never like to play a conference team in the first round because you like to root for your conference,” Irish coach Dan Shay said. “And it’s tough because you know each other so well. But it was a great draw for both of us.”
Central struggled most of the first half against Cedarville’s 1-3-1 zone. But the Irish made a couple plays in the second quarter to force Cedarville into man-to-man defense. Cedarville stayed in man to start the second half. Coach Ryan Godlove wanted to go back to the 1-3-1, but when the lead opened up he couldn’t.
“We talked at halftime about being the aggressor,” said Shay, who got two big baskets from Ryan Fain (10 points) to close the third quarter.
Central led 39-29 entering the fourth quarter, but the Indians were far from put away. With full-court pressure and the Irish struggling at the free-throw line (16 for 32), the Indians extended the game with fouls and trailed by eight with a little over two minutes left.
But Cedarville could not string together enough made shots to make Central nervous.
“The biggest thing was we weren’t making shots inside or outside,” said Indians coach Ryan Godlove, whose team made only one 3-pointer. “We’ve got guys who have been making threes for us all season.”
Hudson Grant led Cedarville with 16 points, Craig Oldiges had 15 and Brant Wickline had 10. Grant and Caleb Jacobs are the only seniors, so Godlove is hoping to build on this season. The Indians had the most wins they’ve had in eight years and more than the past two seasons combined.
“We felt we had a talented group so we set some high goals,” Godlove said. “That’s the reason this hurts so much. Last year at 10 wins we would have felt good. But we raised the expectations and the guys expected more.”