FAIRVIEW PARK, Ohio -- The Battle for Wagar Road was contested near the median line all the way. In a marvelous game mostly played within one possession from tip-to-buzzer, Rocky River defeated Fairview, 62-59, on Tuesday night.
In this renewal of the rivalry road race, the Pirates and Warriors were tailgating each other all the way.
Both teams went on runs in a fast-tempo first quarter which produced 41 points -- 22 for River and 19 for Fairview. There would be few sustained runs the rest of the way.
A close back-and-forth in the second period was highlighted by three triples for the home five. The Pirates (5-6, 4-4 Great Lakes Conference) scored 15-of-31 points in the frame and went into halftime leading by two (37-35).
Shooting percentages went south in the third. Fairview outscored Rocky River, 16-15, to cut its deficit to one (48-47). The third stanza did include an 8-3 run for the Warriors, but the Sons of Blackbeard rallied before the rivalry race careened into the fourth.
River ahead by a fender, both sides barreling down the road alternatively known as Wagar and 210th. No turns, but both stopped for the break in quarters like two muscle cars at a traffic light.
It was Fairview muscling ahead in the early minutes of the fourth, taking a 52-50 lead. But the visiting five showed some resolve, and the Pirates' muscle was most notable on the offensive glass. River rebounders stepped up their efforts, turning misfires into reloads and second chances. And one of those second chances would prove pivotal in the game's final outcome.
Rocky River went on a 7-2 run punctuated by a Robby Lang 3-pointer at the 1:32-mark. But the Warriors came right back with a monster trey of their own -- a Michael Goff bomb at 1:00 -- and the game was tied.
With 35 seconds remaining, a River miss was hunted down on the right block by junior Tommy Bebie. A physically contested put-back effort was successful, and the Pirate forward was fouled on the play. Bebie converted on his free throw, lifting the Maroon & White to a 60-57 lead with 34 seconds remaining.
Fairview got two of those three points back on free throws but not until the six-second mark. After that, two Charlie Hudson throws closed out the game's scoring. The Warriors did have a shot at tying the game at the buzzer, but they had to get off a desperation attempt on a full-court possession in the final three ticks. When their attempt came up empty, the game was won for the Pirates.
The victory marked Rocky River's first over Fairview since Jan. 16, 2016. It ended a run of five in a row for the Warriors.
Streak snapped. Road renamed.
CANNON FIRE ...
BUCS SCORE: Both teams shot under 37% from the field. The Pirates went 23-of-63 (36.5%) while the Warriors went 21-of-58 (36.2%). River went 10-of-11 (90.9%) from the free-throw line. For Fairview, top individual performances were logged by Ethan McQuate (18 points), Danny Hanton (16 points), and Michael Goff (12 points, six rebounds). Rocky River got double-double performances by Robby Lang (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Charlie Hudson (11 points, 10 rebounds). Tommy Bebie stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, seven boards, five assists, and three steals. Both teams maintained solid handles on the basketball: RRHS (nine turnovers) and FHS (11) combined to commit just 20 turnovers. Rocky River out-rebounded Fairview, 40-36.
NOTABLE: Tuesday's game marked the closest in the series since a 54-52 Pirate victory in 2009 (Feb. 27). River is now 12-6 against Fairview since 2006. ... The Pirates committed 20.2 turnovers per game over their first six games this season. In five games since, River has averaged 10.8 turnovers per game. ... The 21-point totals for Lang and Bebie marked career-highs. Lang has now averaged 15.0 points per game over the Pirates' last five contests.
QUOTABLE: "I'm proud of the fight our guys showed. We kept battling. We had plenty of misses in the second half and never put our heads down." -- Head Coach Mike Murray
by Skip Snow
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