The Walsh Jesuit High School boys basketball team has won its fair share of "grind it out" games this season, and the Warriors nearly pulled out another one March 1.
The Warriors battled Highland in the opening round of the sectional/district tournament in Medina. The Hornets ultimately edged Walsh Jesuit by the score of 42-36.
The game was tied 8-8 after the first quarter, and Highland seized a 21-14 lead at the intermission. Then the Grizzlies outscored the Warriors 8-6 during the third stanza to increase their advantage to 29-20 at the outset of the fourth frame.
Walsh put together its best offensive performance of the night in the final quarter, scoring 16 points. However, it wasn't enough for the Warriors to completely erase their deficit.
Junior Ben Merril led Walsh Jesuit in scoring with 11 points, while junior Phil Vincent tallied eight points and senior Steven Walko contributed seven markers. Other Warriors cracking the scoring column included sophomore Austin Lustik (six points), senior Brad Johnson (two points), and senior Kevin Kukla (two points).
Walsh Jesuit wrapped up the regular season Feb. 24, against North Coast League Blue Division foe Cleveland Benedictine on the road. That game was a higher-scoring affair, but the Warriors still fell to defeat, this time by the score of 66-53.
Benedictine led 10-5 at the end of the first quarter and 24-20 at halftime. The third quarter proved to be a big difference in the ballgame, as the Bengals outscored the Warriors 20-9 during the stanza. Walsh exploded for 24 points in the fourth period, but Benedictine nearly matched them with 22 points to account for the final tally.
Walsh Jesuit enjoyed a very balanced offensive attack. Four different players reached double digits in scoring.
Injuries hampered Walsh Jesuit all season long. According to head coach John Norris, the Warriors continued to fight through adversity and represented the school and the community well despite the many obstacles they faced.
"I am very proud of the team this year," said Norris. "We battled through one of the most difficult seasons we've ever faced regarding injuries. We lost multiple players for extended periods of time, which forced this team to continue to overcome adversity. And they did so with great class against such a demanding schedule."
Walsh Jesuit finished fourth in the final Blue Division standings. Archbishop Hoban won this year's division title with an undefeated record of 10-0.
Walsh Jesuit is losing three seniors to graduation: Walko, Johnson and Kukla. Norris had nothing but good things to say about the trio.
"I have such great respect for our three graduating seniors and high optimism for the talented returning group of underclassmen," he said.