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Last updateSat, 20 Dec 2014 5pm

Tigers down Cats in district semifinal

A magical season for the Cuba Wildcats came to an end in the district tournament semifinals last week, when St. James revenged a regular season loss to the Cats by outlasting them in a 104-103 shootout, a game sure to be remembered as one of the most exciting basketball games played at Mike Voigt Gymnasium in recent years.

 

Looking to advance to Saturday’s championship finals with Fatima, who had easily defeated Dixon in Friday’s early game, both Cuba and St. James squads were expecting their matchup to be a dogfight—and that it was. The game went to the wire and was decided, to no one’s surprise, in the closing seconds.

“We knew going in that it was going to be tough. St. James has a great team and we have a lot of respect for what they do,” said Coach Justin Pock. “But having said that, I felt like we were confident about what we could do and how we were going to attack them. We’d beaten them once already at home during the regular season and we were playing again on our home floor. We weren’t taking anything for granted, but I felt we were prepared and confident about our chances. You just knew it was going to be an epic battle of two great teams who don’t like to lose.”

If fans wanted to see some scoring, they certainly got their fill in the Wildcat semifinal. A gymnasium packed with the respective Cuba and St. James fan bases watched the two varsity teams combine for over 200 points.

As expected when two teams known for their quickness and athleticism meet, the action was fast and furious right from the opening tipoff. The Wildcats took an early lead by putting up an impressive 31 points in the first quarter.

Bryer Nash set the pace from the get-go, knocking down three three-pointers in the first period. But his wasn’t the only hot shooting hand on the Wildcat team: Cuba combined for seven three bombs in the first quarter alone and finished the night by making 17 of them.

“Everybody was feeling it,” said Coach Pock. “That’s one thing we have on this team: We’ve got shooters and they’re not afraid to take a shot, even in a big pressure game like this one was.”

Cuba led the Tigers 31-26 at the end of the first quarter, but St. James picked things up in the second period to close the gap to just one point, 54-53, at the halftime recess.

Things were going smoothly for the Cats in the third period, as their shooting stayed hot and they were able to run their lead to 10 points, 71-61, before the Tigers went on their own run to close the gap to 78-76 at the end of the period.

The Wildcats scored the first five points of the fourth quarter for an 83-76 advantage before St. James finally picked up their game. The Tigers were able to tie it up at 88-88 with about four minutes left to play, and then took their first lead after knocking down a three.

The game appeared to be slipping away from the Wildcats as they trailed 96-89 with 1:45 on the clock. That’s when senior Kody Ettinger took complete control of the game and practically willed his team on.

Ettinger knocked down four three-point shots in the final minute and a half, the last of them tying the game 103-103.

With 10 seconds left to play, St. James picked up a foul on their possession and made one of two at the line for a 104-103 lead.

Cuba inbounded the ball to Ettinger, who was doubled on his way up the floor. He passed to Ryan Bouse in the corner—Bouse’s favored shot position—but the ball got loose and nearly went out of bounds. Bouse recovered in time to fire up a shot that glanced off the side of the backboard as time expired.

“You put up 103 points and lose: You don’t see that very often in a high school basketball game,” admitted Coach Pock. “It was a battle of our speed against their size. I thought we played really hard. Both teams did. Every one of our players contributed on the floor. I was proud of that. We’re disappointed in the loss but proud of the effort. It was definitely one of the wildest games I’ve ever been a part of. It was good for our fans, their fans, and the players. That kind of atmosphere in our own gymnasium—that’s what high school basketball is all about. I wish we had been able to come away with a win, but I think we can hold our heads high this season. It was a good year.”

Ettinger finished the night with eight three-pointers made and 44 points in the book. His performance pushed him over the 2,000 point mark for his four-year varsity career at CHS. He finishes his basketball career as the highest scorer in school history.

But his 44 points doesn’t overshadow what his teammates did that night: Nash had four threes and 17 points, Cameron Williams scored 15, Bouse 13, Taylor Thompson 12, and Brendan Wild two.

The Wildcats finished the 2012-2013 season with a 24-3 record, the most wins in school history. They were 10-0 in the conference, securing the GVC title for a third consecutive year.

St. James advanced to Saturday’s final, where they beaten by the Fatima Comets, who captured the District 9 title.

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