Lorain boys basketball: Titans fight but fall to St. Ignatius in district final

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CLEVELAND Sometimes your best effort just isnt enough. For Lorain, that was a reality on March 6 as the Titans fell to St. Ignatius, 56-52, in a Division I district final. With the win, St. Ignatius advances to a Norwalk Regional on March 10. I knew we were going to defend them well and we did, Lorain coach John Rositano said. You hold a team like that to 43 until we started intentionally fouling . . defense wasnt the issue. We just couldnt get enough movement on offense to make them play defense. We just didnt do enough things to beat a team like that on their home court. Tenth seeded Lorain 8-6 struggled offensively in the first quarter and fell behind 11-2 after one. Second seeded St. Ignatius 17-6 dug in defensively and didnt give the Titans anything easy. I thought we lost the game in the first quarter, Rositano said. I felt we had to get off to a good start and we fell behind . . and we just couldnt get going. Lorain found itself trailing 13-4 early in the second quarter before going on an 8-0 run fueled by Seth Wilson and Jamir Billings. The pair of seniors both nailed 3-pointers and Wilson added another bucket to bring Lorain within one point at 13-12. St. Ignatius answered with a 10-2 run to close out the quarter, which gave the home team a 23-14 advantage at the break. In the third quarter, the Wildcats were poised and ready to close out Lorain but the Titans wouldnt let them. St. Ignatius pushed its lead out to 11 at 29-18 before Billings caught fire. The senior scored nine of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter to help his team pull within six as Lorain trailed 36-30 after three quarters. He made play after play on both ends of the court, said Rositano. In the fourth, Billings didnt let up. He drained a trio of 3-pointers to keep his team close as the Titans pulled within two. Back-to-back 3s from Billings made it 40-38 St. Ignatius with 4. 31 left in the game. I was just trying to keep us in the game, said Billings. Im a senior so I didnt want to go out. But I didnt do enough in the end to help us get the win. After pulling within two, Lorain proceeded to turn the ball over on back-to-back offensive possessions, which proved to be its downfall. Following Lorains second turnover, Wildcats guard Braydn Szczepaniak drained a 3-pointer and teammate Jon Effertz scored a basket to put St. Ignatius up by seven. Billings drained a 3-pointer of his own with 1. 46 left in the game to pull Lorain within four at 45-41. Thats as close as Lorain would get, however, as the Titans were forced to intentionally foul and the Wildcats closed the game out at the free throw line. St. Ignatius did its best to limit Wilson and not let him take the game over. The West Virginia signee shook off a slow start to help his team rally in the fourth quarter by nailing a pair of 3s. He finished with 14 points in his final game as a Titan. Its been an amazing journey, Wilson said. I wouldnt trade it for the world. Playing back home in front of friends and family and ending my high school career here. Everything comes back full circle for me. Its just a blessing to be able to do it. Lorain graduates seven seniors including Wilson, Billings, Jaco Lee, Jae Von Manning, DeVante Jackson, Kam Thomas and Aden Brown. This was also the final game for Lorain coach John Rositano as he is set to step down from coaching the team. I just told them thats a great bunch of kids and if youre going to go out, you want to go out with guys like that, Rositano said. They are winners. They are going to go to college . . and they are going to be successful in life because whether its in the classroom on the court, they just do the right things. Its been a joy to coach these guys. Lorain navigated rough waters this season and had to hurdle several obstacles. Due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, the team started its season late, Wilson missed four games due to an injury and the team had to quarantine late in the season right before the start of the postseason tournament. With all that the team had to go through, the Titans were happy to have a season and enjoyed every moment together. For everybody this year, it was tough due to COVID and everything, said Wilson. Our guys, we stayed resilient, we stayed tough and we continued to fight to the very end. Theres no other six guys that Id rather play with and end my high school career with. Even though we went out, Im glad we went out together.

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