PARMA, Ohio -- The Rocky River Pirates are off to a good start in Great Lakes Conference play. On Tuesday, Rocky River rode the strength of a high-pressure Pirate defense in defeating the league foe Normandy Invaders, 51-35.
The contest at the Invader Dome marked the first of 16 circuit tilts for the Pirates, who went 6-6 in placing fourth in a seven-team GLC a year ago. The 2018-19 conference season brings two new foes with it -- River will lock horns with the Buckeye Bucks on Jan. 7 (away) and Feb. 11 (home) and cross swords with the Fairview Warriors on Jan. 10 (away) and Feb. 14 (home). But those contests will play out in due time; on Tuesday night in Parma, the Normandy Invaders had the full attention of Head Coach Mike Murray and the Pirates.
After all, River and Normandy had split two games last season, with each team winning at home by a lone point (Normandy d. RR, 59-58, on Feb. 19; RR d. Normandy, 45-44, on Jan. 25). In Tuesday's affair at Normandy, the two sides were split by two possessions after two quarters of action. The Pirates outscored the Invaders, 16-10, in the first quarter, a period which would turn out to be the highest-scoring on the night.
In the second stanza, the game became a defensive tussle. The Pirates committed five turnovers while going just 2-of-5 from the floor in that second quarter. But River's defense was also stout. The Maroon & White yielded just six points to the host Invaders, and Rocky River went int halftime leading, 21-16.
"Our defense kept us in the game," said Murray. "The individual efforts and teamwork were outstanding all night."
Rocky River took over the game with a 7-0 run at the outset of the third quarter. The Pirates would not let their lead dip below 10 the rest of the way. The Sons of Blackbeard kept a stranglehold on their lead with hustle defense at one end of the floor and a 55% (11-of-20) shooting performance at the other end. The Pirates also cleaned up some first-half turnover problems and out-rebounded the host Normandy five. (For the game, River was a minus-5 in turnovers -- 11 to Normandy's five; the Pirates were a plus-6 on the boards -- 26-20.)
The third frame was a 15-4 win for the Pirates. The two sides split 30 points equiably in the fourth.
River's shooting on the night was a major improvement after a sluggish Nov. 29 opener. After shooting just 31.4 % (16-of-51) from the floor in that game, the Pirates went 19-of-35 (54.3%). Tommy Ruma and Nathan Robertson paced the squad shooting 42.9% (6-of-14) from 3-point range. Ruma drained four treys in logging 12 points on the night. Robertson finished with eight points. Charlie Hudson was River's top scorer. The junior forward went 5-of-9 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line in putting 14 points in the book. Hudson also led the visitors in rebounds (six) while dishing out three assists. The Pirates registered assists on 14 of their 19 buckets. Senior Connor O'Toole had four assists against just one turnover. O'Toole and Tommy Bebie each garnered six points in the scoring column.
Austin Nahrstedt led the Invaders with 12 points and four rebounds. The Pirate defense held Normandy (1-1, 0-1 GLC) to a 12-of-42 (28.6%) evening in shooting the basketball.
With Tuesday's win, Rocky River is now 5-1 over its last half-dozen games against Normandy.
The game at Normandy marked the first of four consecutive GLC games for the Pirates (1-1, 1-0). That stretch is slated to continue with a home tilt against Valley Forge on Dec. 10 (7:30 p.m.).
CANNON FIRE ...
GOING LOW: Tuesday's result marked River's fewest points in a victory since Jan. 5 (45-43 win over Keystone). The 31 points allowed marked the fewest the program has allowed in a single game since Feb. 27, 2018 (35 vs. Lutheran West). The 2017-18 Pirates actually held foes under 40 points on five occassions.
TREY BIEN: Tommy Ruma's four triples marked his most in a single game in 14 contests, dating back to last season. A year ago, the then-junior led the Pirates with 40 treys on a 38% (40-of-108) accuracy mark.
by Skip Snow
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