ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- The Pirates clocked their best offensive performance in more than a month, as Rocky River defeated Elyria Catholic, 68-53, on Friday night.
River shooters were dialed in, logging a season-best 52.9% effective field-goal mark (a percentage that accounts for the risk/reward of 3-point baskets) and helping the Pirates to their most points in a single game since Dec. 11 (70 vs. Pama). Juniors Robby Lang (15 points) and Braedon Spies (19) went a combined 11-of-16 from the floor in leading the Rocky River offense. Spies knocked down a trio of threes in a game that saw the Pirates score their most points against EC since 2011 (69).
The Pirates went 15-of-30 (50%) on 2-point attempts and 8-of-21 (38.1%) from beyond the 3-point arc. River also had one of its better nights at the charity stripe: the Sons of Blackbeard made 14-of-19 free-throw attempts (73.4%).
Rocky River (4-5, 3-4 Great Lakes Conference) came out fast at both ends of the floor, opening up a 16-3 lead. The Pirates led, 16-6, by the end of the first quarter, but a lengthy scoring drought helped the visiting Panthers get back into the game. Midway through the second, an Elyria transition bucket off a River turnover capped off an 11-4 run for the Panthers. The Pirate cushion at halftime would be six points (29-23).
The visitors held sway in the third, chipping their deficit down to two (40-38) by the end of the period.
Rocky River opened the the fourth period with a Gavin O'Brien triple on offense and an athletic and emphatic Robby Lang block at the other end of the floor. But the Panthers wrested away that momentum and knotted the scored at 47-47 by the 4:30-mark.
With a big effort from the River defense -- an effort keyed by Lang, Nathan Robertson, and Braedon Spies -- the Pirates began to force a slew of turnovers. The defense fed the offense, and the Sons of Blackbeard dominated the contest the rest of the way. Beginning at the 4:30-mark, Rocky River went on an 11-0 run. The Pirates would finish the game on a 10-4 run; overall they outscored the Panthers, 28-15, in the final frame.
For the game, the Pirates logged 13 steals, their most in a single game since Dec. 15 (14 vs. Holy Name). River registered a season-high five blocked shots.
On offense, the Pirate attack was a depth charge. Spies and Lang were joined on the score sheet by Tommy Bebie (10 points), Charlie Hudson (nine), and Nathan Robertson (nine). River passing was sharp: the Roundball Raiders were credited with 15 assists, their most in a game since Dec. 11 (15 vs. Parma). Those 15 helpers came against just 13 turnovers (RRHS had only three miscues in the entire second half). For the game, Rocky River was a plus-6 in turnover margin and a minus-2 in rebounding. Forward Jack Kenneally led the Panther attack on the boards. The 6-foot-7 junior logged a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double for Elyria Catholic.
Robby Lang countered with a 15-and-11 double-double for the home five. Lang's 11 boards marked a career-best.
"I really liked our balanced scoring," said Head Coach Mike Murray. "Robby having a double-double against their big guy tonight was a big key as well."
Murray also noted significant contributions for the River bench bunch: "We got into some foul trouble in the first half, but I thought Justin, Stan, Gavin, and Patrick really helped us finish the half strong."
Justin, Stan, Gavin, and Patrick -- Messrs. Gina, Heuler, O'Brien, and Lange -- finished the game with a robust combined line including nine points, four rebounds, and three assists.
On Friday at the Corner of Wagar & Detroit, the River was indeed deep.
CANNON FIRE ...
ROBBED: Robby Lang (three blocked shots) and Nathan Robertson (two) combined to produce a five-block night for the Pirates. The five swats marked Rocky River's most in a single game since Feb. 9, 2019 (five vs. Lutheran West).
THIEVED: With his six steals Friday night, Braedon Spies now has a team-high 29 thefts on the season. For the season, the Pirates are averaging 8.0 steals per game as a team. ... Spies' 19 points on Friday tied a career-high. The three-sport River athlete (football, baseball) clocked a 19-point game against Parma in River's season opener on Dec. 8. Spies is averaging 11.7 points per game on the season.
by Skip Snow
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