WASHINGTON — At a time when every boys basketball team in the state wants to be playing its best, the Washington Catholic Cardinals are still trying to find a rhythm.
The Cardinals (4-14) dropped their fourth game in a row in a 63-44 loss to Evansville Day (7-12) behind 28 points from Will Stevens and 23 from Derek Hammelman Tuesday night at the Bird Cage on Senior Night.
Washington Catholic sophomore A.J. Sellers got the Cardinals on the board quickly with a three-point play in the opening minute, but Evansville Day countered with a 10-0 run to take control of the game. Sellers scored two more baskets, but the Eagles led 14-7 when Washington Catholic coach John Howell took a timeout with 1:58 to play in the quarter. Out of the timeout, James Brown converted a three-point play and Sellers grabbed a loose ball and turned it into a transition layup to cut the deficit to 14-12 after one quarter.
"We were aggressive, but they had a ton of blocked shots," Howell said. "We were getting shots around the basket and I was very proud of that. We just had trouble getting shots — I liked how aggressive we were, but there comes a time where maybe we need to pop a shot fake and get to the free throw line."
The second quarter, however, belonged to Evansville Day's Derek Hammelman and Will Stevens. The pair combined for 12 points in the first quarter, but they did even better in the second. Hammelman and Stevens had eight points each in the quarter to give Evansville Day a 33-24 lead at halftime. Sellers and Zach Taylor each made three free throws to try to keep the Cardinals in the game, Washington Catholic was only able to make two shots from the field in the quarter, coming from Ethan Wichman and Brandon Strange.
"No. 31 (Will Stevens) created a lot of stuff tonight and just killed us," Howell said. "He got into the lane and we were worried about him and we left Derek Hammelman wide open. I know their record isn't as good as it should be, but they are pretty good athletes. When you have Stevens, the way he cuts to the basket, especially against us and we don't have a lot of size, it makes him look huge. He tore us up tonight and we couldn't stop his penetration."
To start the third quarter, Armando Ramirez converted a layup and Wichman split a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 35-27 with 6:27 to play in the quarter. The Eagles responded with a 13-0 run that included six points from Stevens. Washington Catholic scored its first points in nearly four minutes when Jon Mitchell scored a layup to cut the Eagle lead to 48-29. Mitchell scored another layup on the next possession and Brown scored a layup on a second chance opportunity to give the Cardinals a 6-0 run to end the quarter, but Evansville Day still led 48-33 heading to the final quarter.
"In the third quarter it took us way too long to figure out that long and opposite was open and we could never hit it," Howell said. "Once we finally did, it opened things up, but it took us too long to open things up. We didn't rebound well, when they did miss they got every offensive rebound. We're slowly getting better and doing some things decent offensively, but we can't get any defensive stops."
The Eagles outscored the Cardinals 15-14 in the final eight minutes to clinch the 19-point victory. Sellers led Washington Catholic with 13 points, Mitchell had seven, Taylor added eight, Brown and Wichman had five apiece, Strange had four and Ramirez had two points. Stevens had 28 and Hammelman added 23 points. Patrick Cinelli added six, Sami Al-Abed and Brevin Tilmon had two points apiece. Washington Catholic will lose only one senior from this year and that was Thomas Bradley.
"Our senior tonight, Thomas Bradley gave us some quality minutes all night," Howell said. "He played well defensively and made some nice passes into the post and he had a very good night."