The basketball season ended Friday night for Guerin Catholic as Cardinal Ritter defeated the Golden Eagles 62-54 in the Semi-Finals of IHSAA Sectional 27 play in the Eagles Nest. The Raiders advance to meet defending 3A state champs Crispus Attucks in Saturday’s championship tilt.
Ritter (14-7) got off to a fast start each half, and GC was battling from behind all night. It was a physical contest from the get-go, and that neutralized the effectiveness of Guerin’s inside game, said Coach Pete Smith. Leading scorer and rebounder, Jack Hansen sprained his right ankle towards the end of his team’s practice Thursday night, and valiantly tried to play but was obviously hobbled and scored only 8 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. Then early in the second quarter, point guard Clay Hepp severly injured his left leg while getting fouled and was unable to return to action.
After being outscored 18-7 in the first quarter, the Golden Eagles cut into the Raiders lead after the Hepp injury. Luke Godfrey connected on back-to-back 3-pointers and a Drew Thieme basket helped cut the deficit to eight points, 27-19, at halftime.
After falling behind by double digits to start the third quarter, Kian Sills and Bernie McGuinness rallied their troops. Sills, playing point guard in Hepp’s absence, scored eight points and McGuinness’ hustle plays and basket helped cut the lead to three points at 38-35 before Ritter settled for 41-36 lead after three quarters. “We had three possessions to cut it to one point or even tie it and just didn’t capitalize”, said Smith.
Five points both by Zach Munson and Godfrey in the fourth quarter got the Golden Eagles within 45-41, but an intentional foul called on the Golden Eagles was followed by 12-17 free throw shooting by the Raiders in the final six minutes when Guerin was trapping all over the court proved too much for Guerin Catholic to overcome.
GC had one of their poorest shooting games in a while, connecting on only 19-50 field goal attempts. They also were outrebounded 29-25 by Ritter, marking only the fourth time all season Smith’s squad didn’t win the battle of the boards in 25 contests. “We fought and battled, and I was very proud of that. Our injuries sure put a damper on the game, too, and I need to just stop there.” said Smith shortly after the game. It was apparent to everyone in attendance of his displeasure with how the game was being officiated, and he was assessed a technical foul just three minutes into the action.
Godfrey finished with 13 points, while Munson and Sills added 12 for Guerin Catholic, who ended their season with a 16-9 record. It marked the eleventh-straight winning season for the Golden Eagles.