DAYTON — Catholic Central’s players didn’t slump off to the locker room after collecting their district runner-up medals. They posed for a team photo. They slapped hands and traded hugs with their student section. There were some smiles.
They were at UD Arena after all for a Division IV district final. They wanted to take every memory with them they could. Sure, as some of them walked into the tunnel there were tears because the season and some high school careers were over.
But the Irish weren’t supposed to get here. Last year’s district champion lost eight seniors and the coaching staff. Only Tyler Galluch and Cole Ray had played varsity basketball at Central. And they weren’t supposed to be a big test for sixth-ranked Russia out of the rugged Shelby County Athletic League.
But they were until Russia got control in the final two minutes by making 14 of 18 free throws to pull away for a 78-50 victory.
“I feel like a lot of people didn’t really expect us to get here, and you know Russia’s a really great team, 22-3, in a really good conference,” Central senior Tyler Galluch said. “So just to be in that game in the fourth quarter, we felt good about it. We felt like we played good today and left it all out there. It definitely feels good.”
Galluch was named co-player of the year this week in the Southwest District, and Russia (23-3) coach Spencer Cordonnier knew from scouting the Irish in person it would be difficult to slow him down. The Raiders held Galluch to five points in the first half and put him on the bench for over six minutes with two fouls by going at him hard to the basket.
“We said, ‘Guys, this isn’t gonna be easy — the Galluch kid is a handful,” Cordonnier said. “He’s strong. He handles it very well, and he just knows where the hoop’s at. It’s not flashy. He just knows how to get it in the hole.”
Galluch scored 15 in the second half and finished with 20, keeping the Irish within striking distance, down 32-27, despite 11 turnovers. In the first half, Cole Ray, P.J. Adams and Ian Roediger kept the Irish in it. Ray finished with 17, Roediger 13 and Adams eight.
“When you go up against a team like Russia, you’ve got to keep your composure and try to run your offense,” Irish coach Matt Mullen said. “Obviously losing Tyler in the first half really, really kills a lot of momentum for us. But guys stepped up, and they kept us in the game until he got back in. He played great tonight.”
Mullen had to be patient this season as his largely inexperienced team learned how to play varsity ball and work together. The Irish (17-9) finished third in their OHC division behind Greeneview and Cedarville and were blown out a couple times in the first half of the season. But they found a way to get back to UD Arena.
“When you go two years in a row, I don’t think people understand how big of a deal it is, especially out of our sectional,” Mullen said. “With all new players and new coaches, I don’t want to say it yet because it’s too early, but you’re going look back on this and say it was a pretty good run.”
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