Leopards Storm Back from Double Digit Deficit to Win Sectional 53-49 – Boys Basketball
#2 Louisville 53, #15 Canfield 49
The #2 seed Louisville Leopards rallied back from a 12-point second half deficit to defeat the visiting #15 seed Canfield Cardinals 53-49 in their DII Ashtabula Sectional Final Friday night at Louisville High School. With the victory, Louisville improves to 17-6 on the season and advances to play the #16 seed Canton South Wildcats in the DII Ashtabula District Semifinals at Lakeside High School on Wednesday, March 2 at 6:00 PM.
Aljancic Scores Team High 18 for Louisville
Junior guard Will Aljancic scored 11 of his team high 18 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Leopards. Sophomore guard Hayden Nigro was a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw (4-for-4 in the fourth) and finished with 17 points as well for Louisville. Other top LHS scorers included senior guard Tyler Boldon with 8 and freshman post Brayden Gross with 5.
Cardinals Take Command with 11-0 Run
The Leopards jumped out to an 8-2 advantage at the start of the game, but the Cardinals answered with a 7-2 run to trim the LHS lead to 10-9. After a Louisville basket, Canfield would string together an 11-0 run spanning from the end of the first quarter to midway through the second quarter to pull ahead 20-12.
Boldon ended the Leopards scoring drought at the 3:58 mark of the second period, but his bucket would prove to be Louisville’s only score of the quarter. The Cardinals continued to feed the hot hand of 6’6 senior forward Jake Grdic who scored 8 points in the second quarter. CHS outscored the Leopards 13-2 in the period and took a commanding 26-14 lead into the locker room.
Canfield maintained their double digit advantage and remained ahead by 12 with 3:36 to go in the third quarter. Late in the third with 10.3 seconds remaining, Nigro drove hard to the basket and scored while being fouled. That field goal trimmed the Louisville deficit to single digits as they trailed 37-28 heading into the fourth quarter.
Gross Leads Leopards Defense in Rally
Aljancic set the tone early on in the opening possession of the final period. He drove through three defenders and scored to get the Leopards to within 37-30. About a half a minute later, Gross ripped the ball out of the hands of a Cardinal rebounder under the LHS basket. In the same motion, Gross threw up a shot just in front of the hoop and drew a foul as the shot went through. Gross converted the ensuing free throw to cut the Louisville disadvantage to 37-33, barely a minute into the final quarter.
Boldon scored on a reverse layup on the Leopards next possession. Then Gross knocked a pass away in the key on defense and into the hands of Boldon. He pushed it ahead to Aljancic who scored for the fast break layup to make it a one possession contest at 39-37.
Canfield answered with a pair of baskets to pull ahead 43-37. Grdic scored in the lane for the first bucket. Then senior guard Ryan Petro stole an errant Louisville pass and threw the ball down the court to sophomore forward Jake Schneider. He scored on a near-jam, easy lay-in to put the Cardinals back up by six.
The Leopards matched Canfield with a pair of scores to get back to within 43-41. After an offensive rebound by Gross, Aljancic paralyzed three defenders using a nasty pro hop in the lane and scored on a backward layup. Tight defense by freshman guard Beau Siegfried forced an ill-advised bounce pass on the other end. The pass was batted away by Gross in the lane and into the hands of Aljancic who sprinted the other way in transition. Aljancic drew two defenders leaving Gross wide open to his left for an easy fast break score for Louisville.
Nigro Gives LHS the Lead from the Line
The two teams traded baskets and free throws as the Cardinals led 47-44 with 2:44 to play. Junior guard Charlie Roberts and Boldon trapped to force a steal on the defensive end to give the ball back to Louisville. The Leopards could not find the basket in transition the other way, but maintained possession with four straight offensive rebounds. LHS Head Coach Tom Siegfried called timeout to reset the possession and Aljancic was able to create space inside and score out of the break.
The Louisville defense came up with another stop on the other end. Nigro was fouled going down the lane on the offensive end and made Canfield pay for it at the line. Nigro hit both shots to give the Leopards their first lead at 48-47 since the waning seconds of the opening quarter.
The Cardinals looked to snatch the lead back, but Gross contested a shot inside and then snagged a rebound after a second Canfield attempt. Louisville was able to successfully melt the clock away with the lead before the Cardinals were forced to foul with 41.6 seconds left. Again Nigro came through in the clutch with a pair of free throws to put the Leopards ahead 50-47.
Grdic hit deep two from the left side of the hoop that went through the basket as a referee’s whistle sounded. An off-ball foul was called on Canfield, the basket counted and senior guard Zack Seaman went to the line for two free throws. Seaman split the pair from the line giving Louisville a 51-49 lead with 23.5 seconds left.
Aljancic Gets the Last Laugh
The Leopards sealed off the lane on defense forcing the Cardinals to kick the ball back out for a game-winning three-point attempt. The shot hit the back of the rim, tipped off three potential rebounders, and into the hands of Aljancic.
Louisville’s star junior had been harassed the entire game by the Canfield student section and had struggled by his standards early on. All that didn’t matter in the end as Aljancic secured the game with the rebound, charged down the court the other way, and ended the contest with an emphatic dunk just before the buzzer sounded.
Pandemonium ensued as Aljancic didn’t hide his excitement and an avalanche of students stormed the court to celebrate with the team.
Grdic Leads Canfield With Game High 24
Canfield was led by Grdic who made 11 shots from the field and finished with a game high 24 points. Schneider also hit double figures with 10 and senior guard Zane Muckleroy made 2 three-pointers en rout to scoring 8.
This is the second time this season that the Leopard have defeated the Cardinals by a 4-point margin. Louisville defeated Canfield 63-59 back in December at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. The Leopards had never beaten the Cardinals prior to this season as Canfield now leads the all-time series 4-2. The series is now even at 1-1 when played at Louisville. The Leopards fell to the visiting Cardinals 68-44 in their inaugural meeting at LHS during the 1993-94 season.
Siegfried Ties Harold for Most Tournament Wins
Louisville Head Coach Tom Siegfried secured his 201st all-time win Friday and his 10th in the postseason. The Leopards improved to 10-14 in tournament play under Siegfried, who matches the win total of former Louisville Head Coach Joe Harold who compiled a tournament record 10-4 from 1990-1993.
Louisville has now won 5 sectional championships in the last 7 seasons overall, which includes winning DII sectional titles in each of the past three seasons. The Leopards are now 6-2 at home all-time in the postseason and also improve to 28-28 in tournament play while competing in Division II. Louisville is now 56-88 all-time in the postseason dating back to 1932.
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Canfield at Louisville Boys Basketball Statistics
LEOPARDS 53, CARDINALS 49
CARDINALS: Grdic 11 2-2 24, Schneider 5 0-1 10, Muckleroy 3 0-0 8, Slaven 1 0-0 3, Petro 1 0-1 2, Russo 1 0-0 2. TOTAL 22 2-4 49.
3-Pointers (3): Muckleroy 2, Slaven 1
Team FT: 2-4 50%
LEOPARDS: Aljancic 8 1-4 18, Nigro 4 8-8 17, Boldon 4 0-0 8, Gross 2 1-1 5, Siegfried 2 0-0 4, Seaman 0 1-2 1. TOTAL 20 11-15 53.
3-Pointers (2): Aljancic, Nigro
Team FT: 11-15 73%
Fouls: 17-13 Canfield
Turnovers: 16-5 Canfield
Records: Louisville 17-6
DII Canton Region Sectional Final Tournament Scores
DII Ashtabula Sectional Finals
#2 Louisville 53, #15 Canfield 49
#16 Canton South 43, #3 West Branch 34
#8 Youngstown Ursuline 68, #5 Marlington 61
#12 Warren Howland 55, #6 Struthers 50
DII Canton Sectional Finals
#5 CVCA 71, #16 Cleveland East Technical 47
#6 Padua Franciscan 62, #13 Woodridge 48
#7 Tallmandge 70, #24 LaGrange Keystone 55
#4 Cleveland Glenville 72, #17 Villa Angela-St. Josepth 71
DII Stow Sectional Finals*
#1 St. Vincent-St. Mary 60, #38 Warrensville Heights 21
#23 Mentor Lake Catholic 50, #19 Coventry 28
#9 Medina Buckeye 72, #18 Norton 61
#8 Lutheran West 45, #20 Rocky River 20
DII Youngstown Sectional Finals
#11 Chardon 69, #4 Perry 60
#7 Poland Seminary 60, #10 Streetsboro 59, OT
#13 Chagrin Falls 39, #18 Geneva 18
#1 Youngstown Chaney 74, #26 Youngstown East 29
*Seedings for Stow Regional Are Different from the Rest, Part of “Northeast West” Super District