The Charlotte Catholic Cougars claimed the Southwestern 4A Conference Championship with a 72-65 win over East Mecklenburg Saturday.
The final was held Saturday morning after the tournament was postponed Tuesday when a Rocky River player collasped during a game on Tuesday. That player, Henry Price, is recovering. The tournament resumed Thursday — and Catholic kept winning.
“They (the emotions) are high,” Catholic coach Mike King said after the championship. “From September on, we have been grinding. We work hard at that time, for this time of the year. They trust each other, they trust us and it’s just great to see these guys’ awards come out.”
This season, Catholic and East Mecklenburg played two high quality, hard fought games in the regular season. The tournament final was a carbon copy.
“No lead is big enough against East Meck,” King said. “Those guys can shoot it and they really play hard. Hats off to them.”
This game showed the resilience the Cougars had because it could have slipped from their grasp when their senior leader Pat Tivnan picked up his third foul in the second quarter. Coach King sang his big man’s praises for keeping composed.
“Pat gets beat up every night,” King said . “We fight for him and he gets frustrated, but I thought this morning he showed some maturity. He got frustrated but he let it go and changed his game a little to move without the ball.”
East Mecklenburg guard Jordan Nevill led the third qualifying comeback to take a 51-49 lead into the fourth quarter. Nevill had a game high 29 points and pulled his team level at 65 late in the game. He made five 3-point shots.
But it was the tournament MVP Ryan Lewis who would land the knockout blow though as he came right back down the court and hit what would ultimately be the game winning shot for the Cougars.
“First of all, shout out to Nevill,” Lewis said. “He is a heck of a player. It means a lot to me that coach trusts me to hit the shots, and that gives me all the confidence in the world.”
Lewis and Tivnan both are ready for the state playoffs and feel this win is a big confidence booster.
“We know the team we have,” Lewis said. “We know we have all the size in the world and it’s tough for team’s to stop us. If we just play together and lock in on the defensive end, the sky’s the limit for us.”
With emotions palpable outside of the Cougar locker room, Tivnan feels this win is big for his team heading into the state playoffs.
“It’s much better going into the state playoffs with a win, than a loss I can tell you that,” Tivnan said.
THREE WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
Jordan Nevill, East Meck: The engine that makes East Meck run, Nevill had 29 points, 15 in the first half while hitting five three point shots.
Pat Tivnan, Charlotte Catholic: The man in the middle for the Cougars, despite getting in foul trouble early, was second on the team in scoring. Many of his baskets came in the closing minutes of the game when he came back in with just over five minutes remaining.
Ryan Lewis, Charlotte Catholic: Lewis scored a team high 23 points and tallied a handful of assists as well. He was named tournament MVP after the game.