Cardinals’ magical basketball run ends in the regional semis

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

Despite having their season end before they were hoping to, the Cardinal Stritch basketball team can take pride in a tournament run that saw the Cardinals win a district title and advance to the Division III regional semifinals before falling to perennial power Ottawa-Glandorf, 62-43.
It was the culmination of another fine season for Stritch, which won 22 games, not to mention some marquee wins that will give Sedron Harris’ group some special memories. The Cardinals defeated Margaretta and Huron to win a district title, and rallied to beat Emmanuel Christian, the sixth-ranked team in Division III, in a thriller at home.
“Our first game was at a college, Lourdes University, and ended on a college court at Bowling Green State University. We beat the No. 6 team in the state and lost to the No. 1 team (in the tournament). We played six regional semifinal teams and were 4-2. We played five teams that have Division I college basketball players and came out with a 3-2 record,” said Harris. “The long bus rides, the work ethic, picking each other up, being mentors – it’s been a process. One thing I’ve told the guys is to do it the right way, trust in God, and there are bright moments when those guys accepted their roles. I trust my guys because they understand our goal and they put in the work.”
The biggest victory of the season was a 56-51 triumph over the (Huron) Tigers in the district finals, a win that saw the Cardinals rally to win behind 18 points from Christian Burton. It was rewarding for Stritch to win the district title after coming up just short of winning a district championship in each of the previous two seasons.
Trailing 40-36 with two minutes to play in the third quarter, Burton made four 3-pointers in the next eight minutes as the Cardinals took control of the game and held off the Tigers for the win.
Burton drained a 3 and hit two free throws to give Stritch a 41-40 lead after three quarters; Kam Hughes made two free throws early in the fourth quarter and Burton made another 3 to give the Cardinals a 6-point lead at 46-40 with 6:47 to play in the game. From there, Stritch had to hold off a fierce Huron rally.
Burton, who scored 14 of the Cardinals’ final 20 points, made a tough 3 following a three-point play by Huron guard Sam Hoher to push the advantage back to six at 49-43. Perhaps the biggest jumper was another 3 for Burton, this one pushing the lead to 52-48 with 1:42 to play.
The 53-50 win over the Polar Bears saw the Cardinals lead 22-11 after one quarter and 34-28 at halftime before a back-and-forth second half ensued.
Midway through the third, Margaretta went on a 7-0 run to take a 37-36 lead on a Judah Keller bucket before fellow freshman Julian Washington tied it moments later at 39-39, and then Keller tied it again at 41-41. Polar Bear guard Cameron Sosa hit a 3 to give Margaretta a 44-41 lead.
Stritch guard Owen Yost hit one 3-pointer to tie the game, then another to go up 47-44. He added another jumper for a 49-46 lead and finished with 13 points.
The Bears tied it one final time on a 3-pointer from the left corner by Gage Bodey with 2:40 left before the Cardinals eked out the win.
Burton had 20 points to lead all scorers.
“All year, we’ve been saying, ‘Just play together.’ Each night, it’s going to be a different guy. That’s been our collective DNA. That’s why we win games without a BCSN top 10 or top league player. We’ve done it by committee; this other guy can step up. Against Margaretta, Owen Yost was fantastic, and Breon Hicks and Kam Hughes played well,” said Harris. “Christian stepped up against Huron. By committee – that’s how great basketball teams win.”
Harris scheduled good teams so the Cardinals could be prepared come tournament time.
“My goal was to make sure that we were ready. I scheduled tough games. The losses don’t amount up to the wins that we have. Our schedule prepared us for the playoffs,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t see us coming, but we knew that we were coming from day one.”
The loss to the Titans was the final game for Burton, Hicks, Hughes, Idro Price, Owen Carter and Collin Fitzgerald.
“Coming in, as a first-year, these young men have molded to my standard and represented Stritch to the highest. They’re tremendous young men on and off the court; they learned how to play as a team, and that’s what I’m most proud of,” said Harris. “These young men have left a legacy that the underclassmen will look to uphold.”
Hughes talked about Harris’ leadership.
“Coach Harris set standards for us as a team, it was a big transition. He tells us to trust the process,” said Hughes. “The past two years, we just fought, fought, fought and didn’t let up.”
Harris talked about the state of the program.
“I feel like we’re in good shape, but it’s tough losing six seniors. But I feel like mentally, we’re still where we need to be in the top tier teams in our conference,” he said. “Hopefully our young guys come in and realize the work ethic and legacy that has been laid and work to elevate it.”
Harris, who just completed his second season coaching the Cardinals, talked about his support system.
“I have (assistant coaches) Brandon Richardson and Jason Hosinski,” Harris said. “Those guys are going to be good head coaches. The time and effort they put in is unmatched.
He also credited his wife and family. “I have four kids at home. Just to be able to do what I love and to come home on some late nights; my wife is my biggest coach and my biggest supporter,” he said.


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