PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Recent tussles in Great Lakes Conference basketball action between Rocky River and Holy Name have sometimes been blowouts and sometimes close games decided in desperate moments. The results have swung the way of the 'Wave by a near 2-to-1 margin. But those results have always been hard-earned in battles contesting every floorboard from baseline to baseline.
On Friday, the Pirates and Green Wave jousted for the first of two times this season. And despite a near-collapse in the fourth quarter, the Sons of Blackbeard prevailed: Rocky River defeated Holy Name, 55-54.
A second-quarter outburst lifted the Pirates to a three-score lead, a cushion the visiting five would enjoy all the way to the back half of the fourth when the Green Wave tripled their way back into the game with a quartet of missiles from beyon the arc.
After River and Holy Name (4-3, 0-3 GLC) equitably split 16 points in the opening quarter, the Maroon & White went to work. Three treys, six 2-point buckets and four free throws added up to a 25-point second stanza for Rocky River (3-1, 3-0). The Pirates rode their shooting success to a nine-point advantage (33-24) by halftime.
Braedon Spies (seven points) lead a goup of four Pirates with four-or-more points in the second quarter.
The home five got as close as four in the third, but River went into the final quarter leading, 45-28. The Pirates would extend their lead to as many as 13 points early in the fourth, but Pirate points were few and far between in the final four minutes of play. At one point, Holy Name chopped away at a 12-point deficit (52-40) by draining three consecutive and unanswered 3-pointers. Rocky River finally countered with a basket to go ahead, 55-49; the Pirates, however, would be held scoreless the rest of the way.
The lead dwindled to 4, then two and then one. With both combatants frantically scrambling to get the final lead. River misfired on a possession with 12 seconds remaining in the contest, giving the Green Wave the basketball and a chance to win it. Stout defense denied any good look at the basket, and the clock hit zero before the Pirate lead could evaporate any further.
The Green Wave shot 50% (6-of-12) from the floor -- including a 4-of-7 performance from 3-point distance -- in that final quarter. After being forced into 11 first-half miscues, Holy Name was tagged with just four turnovers over the final 16 minutes of basketball. The home side had its way with the Pirates on the boards throughout -- the Green Wave out-rebounded River, 42-28.
"This was a physical game against a big team," said Head Coach Mike Murray. "We knew with their size, we would need a team effort on both sides of the ball. And that's what we got."
River's team defense would hold the Green Wave to a 34% (17-of-50) shooting performance. Holy Name shot 31.6% (6-of-19) on 3-pointers and 66.7% (14-of-21) from the free throw line. The Pirates won the turnover battle, committing nine and forcing 15. Rocky River's nine turnovers marked a season-best.
In hindsight of River's struggles late, the team got big 3-pointers from two unlikely sources -- Connor O'Toole and Robby Lang -- earlier in the quarter. The Pirates finished the game 6-of-21 (28.6%) from distance. From the field, the Double-R shot 40% (15-of-47); the Pirates went just 9-of-16 (56.3%) from the line.
Spies finished with a team-high 12 points in the contest. The sophomore forward went 5-of-11 from the floor and 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Spies also led River in rebounds, with six.
Charlie Hudson and Robby Lang each garnered 10 points. Hudson also logged five assists. Tommy Ruma added eight points and three assists. Seven players registered playing time in the contest; all seven logged an assist.
"Our ball movement was great all night," said Murray. "I really like our patience and offensive flow."
Kack Kenneally led the Green Wave with a 17-point, 10-board double-double.
Rocky River is now 5-9 over its last 14 games against Holy Name. The Pirates' next clash will be against the Bay Rockets on another GLC Friday (Dec. 20, Rocky River Gymnasium, 7:30 p.m.)
by Skip Snow
# # # pirates # # #