By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
The Edgewood boys trailed almost all night on Tuesday. But the momentum they had at the end enabled them to turn the game around, so that they had the lead when it counted.
A 28-point fourth quarter, including 12 points in a row down the final stretch, changed the complexion of the non-conference game, making the visiting Warriors the ones who left Chardon’s gym in a good mood, as they earned a 66-61 win from the Hilltoppers.
Eli Kalil came up huge for Edgewood. He poured in 30 points including 15 in the fourth quarter. He also shot 5-of-6 free-throw attempts in that period — a frame in which Edgewood (10-6) made good on 13 of its 16 such attempts.
“We’re a team of momentum,” Edgewood coach John Bowler said. “And when (we get the momentum), and we make a 3, or we get a steal, we get an easy layup, we start clicking.
“I think tonight was probably one of the most negative we’ve played as far as body language and worrying about the referees, and everything other than playing basketball. We went on a stretch; we got that stretch going, and that’s our M.O. — it has been all year long. We’re a team of momentum.”
Connor McLaughlin chipped in with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocked shots. He was 9-of-11 at the line. Joey Zappitelli added 11 points, and Matt Fitchet put in 8 points, and had a huge assist to Kalil with 1:15 left that made the score 61-58 in his team’s favor.
Chardon (6-9, 4-6 in the Premier Athletic Conference) nailed 12 3-pointers, including 8 in the first half. A trey by Zach Weiland opened the fourth-quarter scoring and gave the Hilltoppers a 47-38 advantage.
The Warriors then scored 4 to slice the deficit to 5, and the sides traded pairs of points until Zappitelli’s triple cut it to 55-53 with 3:23 left. Joe Connick countered with a 3-point play to push to 58-53, but that’s when the Warriors ran off their 12 straight points, 10 by Kalil.
“I called a timeout when we were down by 7, I think,” Bowler said. “I told ‘em, ‘We got ‘em where we want ‘em.’ They got a little bit overconfident, and it was time for us to put on our defense and make our run, and we did. And those kids pulled together in that fourth quarter as good as I’ve seen ‘em pull together all year.”
“The first half (which ended with us holding a 32-30 lead), we scored a lot but we turned it over (12) times,” Chardon coach Doug Snyder said. “And in the second half, we got our turnovers under control, but our defense got away from us. So right now, we’re having a hard time getting the offense and the defense going together.
“And then Kalil — Holy cow! What a game he played! We played mostly man, tried a little zone just to mix it up, but we just didn’t have an answer for him in the fourth quarter. What a great game.”
Weiland had 13 points and 9 boards, Riley Thompson 3 3-pointers in the second quarter for most of his 11 points, Michael Cardina had 3 first-period triples for his 9 points, Cooper Snyder 3 3s for 9 points and Connick added 6 assists for the Hilltoppers.
Chardon’s Andrew Gray played only briefly before leaving with a cut lip, which required a trip to the hospital for stitches.
Edgewood was 19-of-25 from the line as compared to 9-of-14 for the Hilltoppers.
“I thought Chardon played great,” Bowler said. “They really play good and they’re well-coached. Their kids played really hard. We had that one stretch where we got our momentum going, and we just caught ‘em with their heads down a little bit.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.