The Walsh Jesuit boys basketball team has certainly had a penchant for playing close games this season and the Warriors found themselves in two more close contests recently.
One was against North Coast League Blue Division foe Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin Feb. 17 at home.
NDCL edged Walsh Jesuit by the score of 43-40.
The Warriors led 11-9 at the end of the first quarter. However, the Lions outscored the Warriors 12-11 during the second period. As a result, Walsh took a one-point lead (22-21) into the locker room.
In the first half, Warriors' sophomore point guard Tommy Cummings suffered an injury on a driving layup to the basket. He sprained his ankle after coming down on an opponent's foot. X-Rays of the foot were negative for a break, but the sprain will keep Cummings out of action for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
NDCL surged ahead in the third stanza, scoring 15 points to just nine points for Walsh. That put the Warriors in a 36-31 hole at the outset of the fourth frame. Walsh Jesuit held the Lions to just seven points in the fourth period, but the Warriors were not able to overcome their deficit.
"We did a great job of taking care of the ball and getting good opportunities to score, but we could not convert," Walsh head coach John Norris said. "Defensively, a couple of breakdowns allowed some good chances for NDCL."
Junior Ben Merril led the way for the Warriors with 17 points, while junior Phil Vincent accounted for 8 points.
"I was very pleased with how hard we competed, especially after the injury to Tommy," Norris said.
On Feb. 18, Walsh traveled to non-league opponent Beachwood, where the Warriors edged the Bison by the score of 41-40 in overtime.
The game was tied 7-7 after the opening quarter and Walsh seized control in the second period, taking an 18-12 lead into the locker room. Beachwood struck back in the third stanza, outscoring the Warriors 12-7 to draw to within a point.
Then the Bison completed their comeback, scoring 11 points in the fourth frame and forcing an extra session. the Warriors regrouped and eked out an overtime victory.
After a near miss at the end of regulation play to win the game, Merril drew a foul after a pass from senior Brad Johnson. Merril then calmly hit the game-winning free throw with less than three seconds on the clock.
"I was so pleased with how well we played, especially the effort and energy, since it was our third game in five days on the road against a strong opponent who just won their league title," Norris said. "Without Cummings, we saw senior Kevin Kukla step up, along with freshman Donovan Morris. They played big roles in taking care of the ball and getting us into our offense."
Merril was again the only Walsh player in double digits with 19 points, while Vincent scored eight points.
"We did a great job on the defensive side of the ball, making it very difficult for Beachwood to score," Norris said. "On the offensive side, we executed very well in running our action. That's a sign of the strength of this team: being able to play as a unit, each player knowing their role."
The Warriors had a 10-10 overall record and a 4-5 record in the Blue Division as of press time.
Walsh was scheduled to conclude its regular season against Benedictine Feb. 24 in Cleveland. Results were not available at press time.
The Warriors received the seventh seed at the Copley Division I sectional-district tournament.
Walsh is set to play sixth-seeded Highland March 1 in Granger Township.
Walsh Jesuit wrapped up the regular season on Friday, Feb. 24, against Benedictine on the road. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
"Heading into tournament play, I'm pleased with how we're defending and how we're executing on the offensive side of the floor," Norris said. "We continue to battle through an unprecedented number of injuries, but we love the chance to go out and compete each night."