LUCAS — If Ethan Wallace doesn’t play another basketball game this year, the Lucas junior can rest easy knowing he saved his best for last.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Wallace scored 13 points as the Cubs knocked off McDonald 47-45 in the Division IV regional semifinals at the Canton Memorial Field House.
Lucas was scheduled to play Richmond Heights for a regional crown and berth in the Final Four, but the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced late last week it was indefinitely postponing the boys basketball tournament — as well as the girls basketball, wrestling and ice hockey state tournaments — in response to the rapidly-expanding coronavirus pandemic.
A rugged 5-foot-10, 185-pound forward, Wallace was left all alone as McDonald tried to contain the high-scoring Lucas trio of Logan Niswander, Riley Gossom and Ethan Sauder. Wallace responded by relentlessly attacking the rim and forcing the Blue Devils to foul him.
“I caught the ball on the first play, looked up and absolutely no one was in front of me,” said Wallace, who was also a key piece of Lucas’ Division VII state runner-up football team. “I’ve had games where I didn’t score as much but that’s because Riley and Logan were going off.
“In games like these where they’re taking away Riley and Sauder and Logan, me and Carson (Hauger) have got to step up like we did and just take shots and be confident in what we can do.”
Wallace got off to a slow start, misfiring on a handful of open jumpers in the first half. He had only three points at intermission, connecting on 3 of 4 free throws.
“In the locker room at halftime I was kind of mad because we weren’t being very aggressive,” Wallace said. “I knew (McDonald forward Jacob Portolese) was just sitting in the paint so first time out I told one of our coaches I was going to take it right at him and that’s what I did.”
Wallace drew the foul on Portolese, his third. He used the trip to the free throw line as a springboard to a 10-point third quarter.
“We needed ‘Goose’ to do what he did tonight for us to win,” Lucas coach Taylor Iceman said of Wallace, nicknamed ‘Goose’ by his father, when he was 4 or 5. “Usually if he misses shots he kind of quits shooting. We have all the faith in the world in him. We gave him the (green light) to keep firing and attacking.
“He picked up that third foul on (Portolese) and he had to play differently because he had those three fouls.”
Lucas led 40-32 going to the fourth quarter thanks largely to Wallace, who scored 10 of the Cubs’ 15 points in the third. McDonald opened the fourth on a 10-1 run and took a 42-41 lead with 2:46 to play, but Lucas outscored the Blue Devils 6-3 the rest of the way to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
Then came the OHSAA’s decision to indefinitely postpone the remaining winter sports tournaments. Given the circumstances — Governor Mike DeWine said over the weekend schools could remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year — the likelihood of winter sports tournaments being resumed isn’t especially high.
Regardless, Wallace’s contributions to the regional semifinal victory and to Lucas’ record-setting season as a whole — the Cubs set a program record with 26 wins — hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Goose is a really good basketball player and he doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves,” Iceman said. “He’s crucial to our team with everything he does.”