GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio- The top-ranked team in Northeast Ohio, the Garfield Heights Bulldogs, entered their home arena during their home-hosted Christmas Classic Thursday in preparation for their clash against top-10 ranked St. Vincent-St. Mary. The Fighting Irish had already suffered a few tough losses early on in their campaign and were looking for a signature win heading into the game. For the Bulldogs, they looked to continue making a statement against the cream of the crop.
Early on, it was the Alonzo Gaffney show.
Setting the tone is essential in marquee matchups such as the one that occurred on Thursday night. Gaffney set the tone as aggressively as one could, two-hand slamming the ball on the opening possession of the contest. Gaffney and senior guard Alex Heath created a lot of the looks the Bulldogs earned in the first half, stretching the floor with their talented three-point shooting. Gaffney had eight points in the first quarter of play while Heath and senior Donovan Forter sprinkled in seven and eight respectively.
The second quarter started to show some issues with the depth currently at the big-man position for Garfield Heights, who had a number of players stuck in foul trouble late in the first half. That led to a plethora of opportunities for the inside game for the Irish. St. Vincent-St. Mary took advantage of the lapse and jogged into the locker room with a 41-40 edge over the Bulldogs.
By far the most pivotal point in the contest came midway through the third quarter. Alonzo Gaffney drew a foul down inside the key with 4:23 left in the frame and the Bulldogs played small-ball for the rest of the third quarter without their dominant forward. It didn’t faze the Bulldogs and they stayed even with the Irish heading into the final quarter thanks to a Heath three-pointer with the seconds winding off the game clock. After three fun quarters, the two teams were even at 60 points.
The fourth quarter featured a lot of twists and turns that gave both teams a final crack at the win in the waning seconds of regulation.
The Bulldogs held a two-point lead with less than a minute remaining and Gaffney was sent to the line twice in the span of thirty seconds. However, he could only execute on one of four shots from the charity stripe. That gave the Irish one more look and freshman Seth Wilson shot a heavily-contested three-point attempt that found the bottom of the net to even the game at 70. Johnson would draw a charge on the ensuing drive to turn the ball over with just one second left in the fourth quarter. Despite a risky inbound play that Wilson hit the ceiling with, Garfield Heights could not finish the game as Meechie Johnson’s mid-range jumper was off-target. There would be overtime in this clash.
Overtime was all Bulldogs as they outscored St. Vincent-St. Mary by a 15-6 margin. Heath pulled out some huge buckets in the extra frame of basketball and it led the Bulldogs to another huge victory in another big-time showdown.