The Saint Joseph Academy basketball program has had several outstanding seasons in the past few years but could never capture that elusive first district title. Two years ago, the Jaguars advanced to their first district title game only to come up short. This years team, led by seven outstanding seniors and several young talented players, vowed they would put an end to that waiting. On Thursday night, the Jaguars did just that.
Saint Joseph Academy captured its first district title in basketball with a dramatic 46-44 win over Berea-Midpark. With the win, the Jaguars advance to the OHSAA regional semifinals which will be held on Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. at the Canton Memorial Civic Center. The Jaguars will take on the Solon Comets. SJA is now 20-5 on the season.
Senior Colleen Neitzel was fouled driving to the basket in the final seconds and hit two free throws with 2.6 ticks remaining in a tie game to give the Jaguars a 46-44 lead. The Titans inbounded the ball and got a look at half-court shot as the buzzer sounded but it missed wide and the Jaguars had their district crown.
SJA trailed 22-20 at the half but then took their first lead early in the third quarter. They extended their lead to 40-33 with just over six minutes to go in the game. But Berea-Midpark, playing in their fifth straight district championship game, came roaring back and took a 43-42 lead with 3:15 left in the game. With just over a minute to play, Molly Dever was fouled and stepped up to the line and hit two free throws to tie the game at 44-44 which setup the late game drama.
Senior Colleen Neitzel finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds while junior Molly Neitzel had a team-high 14 points to go along with seven rebounds and four steals. Dever went for 12 points, six rebounds and four steals while fellow senior Kathleen DeCarlo was clutch with six points, six rebounds and five assists.