By Dennis Glade
The Washington Times-Herald
WASHINGTON — What a difference a half makes.
Lighthouse Christian (7-9) couldn't miss in the first half, but Washington Catholic (4-10) bounced back for a 67-62 win over the Lions Saturday night at the Bird Cage on Homecoming night behind 17 points apiece from Ethan Wichman and AJ Sellers.
Riding high after the annual Homecoming pregame festivities, the Cardinals didn't have quite the first half they were looking for against a Lighthouse Christian team they had beaten 58-49 in the season opener on Nov. 25. The Lions took advantage by making seven 3-pointers in the first quarter to jump out to a 21-12 lead.
The second quarter brought two more 3-pointers, which helped the Lions push the lead to 32-16, but Washington Catholic fought back to cut the deficit to 35-24 at halftime. The Lions shot 9-of-13 from behind the three-point line in the first half and 59 percent overall in the first 16 minutes.
"They shot the ball extremely well," said Washington Catholic coach John Howell. "I thought if we could have it down to 10 at half that we would be in the game."
Coming out of halftime, the Cardinals seemed to have a renewed intensity on both ends of the floor and it showed. Washington Catholic won the third quarter by a 19-8 margin to tie the game at 43 heading into the fourth quarter. Wichman connected on two 3-pointers in that third quarter to score six points and Armando Ramirez matched Wichman's point total with three buckets in the paint.
"We came out and had a nice third quarter and the tides kind of turned a little bit," Howell said. "We switched to man and didn't let No. 4 (Bray Snyder) get some touches, they missed some shots and on the other end we hit some shots. It kind of flipped flopped."
Washington Catholic started the quarter on an 8-2 run behind five points from reserve Zak Taylor and a 3-pointer from Brandon Strange, which forced a Lighthouse Christian timeout with 5:36 to play in regulation.
The Cardinals intensity didn't taper off after the timeout as Taylor made two free throws and Sellers scored four straight points to push the lead to 57-50 with 3:13 to play. The Lions cut the lead to five with 2:06 left, but back-to-back baskets from Taylor and Sellers sealed the Cardinals fourth win of the year.
"We made some plays," Howell said. "I thought it was a great team effort — we had a variety of guys contribute in some way or another and not always in the scoring column. I was very proud of our effort tonight. After being down 16, this is a nice win for us."
Washington Catholic shot 15-of-24 (62 percent) in the second half after making just 6-of-21 in the first half. The Cardinal defense tightened up and allowed the Lions to shoot 41 percent in the first half. Lighthouse Christian was led by Austin Martin with 22 points and Bray Snyder with 18. For the Cardinals, Sellers and Wichman combined for 34 points, Taylor had 12 points, Ramirez added eight points, Jon Mitchell had five, Strange and James Brown had three points a piece and Eric Zipperle had two points.
The Cardinals have some time off and will Loogotee Feb. 18 and Springs Valley Feb. 21. Washington Catholic has now doubled its win total after finishing with a 2-21 record in Howell's first year in his second stint with the Cardinals.
"We have some time to work on things," Howell said. "Defensively, we have to get better at stopping ball penetration. Even though we are small, we have to get better on the defensive boards. Offensively, when the outside shot is not going down, we have to find a way to get into the gaps and do something inside and not just rely on the three ball."