BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- The Bobcats of Grandview Heights battled their tails off for 32 minutes on Wednesday night, but in the end, the Cardinals of Oregon Cardinal Stritch got the better end of the three-point shooting to advance to the Division III regional final on Saturday afternoon in the Stroh Center on the campus of the Bowling Green University.
Cardinal Stritch improved to 23-3 on the season after propelling themselves to a first-half lead of 39-28 following a 10-0 run late in the second period that was capped by a 28-foot bomb at the halftime buzzer by the Cardinals senior point guard Jordan Burton who had 14 first-half points, to go with a dozen points contributed by junior forward Joey Holifield. The duo combined to knock down 10 of 14 first-half shots as the Cardinals would shoot 62.5 percent from the field in the first 16 minutes.
"We didn't come out and play defense the way that we intended to in the first half, and we weren't rebounding, " said Bobcats head coach Ray Corbett after the game.
Rebound they didn't, losing the first half battle of the boards 15-7 to the Cards who shot too well from the field to afford the Bobcats a lot of chances to clean the glass early.
The Cats got eight points each from the junior duo of Brian Collier and Luke Lachey, while senior forward Manny Day knocked down six points. Lachey hit four of five shots from the field in the opening half and yanked down four of the Bobcats seven boards.
Grandview's only lead of the half was a two-point lead at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter.
The athleticism and scrappiness of the Cards contributed to a 10-0 advantage on second-chance points in the first half and a five to zero advantage in free throws.
The second half started with a re-energized Bobcat attack that started to contest shots better and fight on the glass.
Despite the stronger effort, Grandview struggled to convert on the offensive end in the third stanza. The Bobcats had their worst shooting quarter of the game hitting just 3 of 11 shots, compared to 4 of 8 shooting by Cardinal Stritch and the lone trey of the period. The 11-8 Cardinal advantage stretched their lead to a game-high 14 point margin at 50-36 with just eight minutes left.
The Bobcats erupted early in the fourth period capturing all the momentum when Cardinal Stritch went to a delay game with its big lead. A 15-2 Grandview run led by Day brought the scrappy Cats within one point 52-51 with the game inside three minutes.
"We were happy to delay, because we wanted to get them in foul trouble and we have three foul shooters that all hit over 75 percent that we trust, " said Cards coach Jamie Kachmarik when questioned about going to the delay so early.
Despite the success from the line all year, three missed front ends of one and one opportunities quickly made the strategy backfire for Cardinal Stritch.
It seemed all was lost for Cardinal Stritch as the momentum shifted dramatically to Grandview, but the Cardinals gathered themselves went on a game deciding 7-0 run finalized by an open-court slam dunk by 6-foot-3 forward Little Anderson with 57 seconds remaining that gave Stritch a 59-51 lead. Anderson led the Cardinals with 12 second half points.
Grandview led by Day's 14 second half points outscored Stritch 7-4 in the final minute to fall by the decisive 63-58 margin.
Grandview finishes the season 19-7 with a slew of talent returning led by Collier and Lachey. Day finished with a game-high 21 points to go with eight boards and four assists. Lachey went for 14 points and 15 rebounds on seven of twelve shooting and Collier finished with 15 points on five of 16 shooting. Lachey's performance was so good that the Bowling Green coaching staff ended up offering him after the game.
The trio of Anderson, Burton and Holifield combined for 48 of the 63 Cardinal points. Stritch's victory was hard fought as the game featured 11 ties and two lead changes.
Grandview came back to outrebound Stritch 29-27 for the contest, while having more assists and less turnovers in the loss. Both teams finished with 24 field goals for the game, but Stritch hit three more treys and two more free throws for the game, and the scoring difference.
Cardinal Stritch will meet Coldwater on Saturday afternoon in a battle for the Division III regional title.