ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – The Rocky River Pirates gutted out a
51-47 victory in a hard-fought Great Lakes Conference battle against the
Normandy Invaders on Tuesday night at Rocky River Gymnasium.
A tremendous first-half effort by the Invaders had the
Pirates down, 27-22, at the half. But the Maroon & White exhibited
tenacious defense and a keen eye at the free-throw line over the final 16
minutes of play. Pirate rebounding also played a big role in the comeback
effort. River overtook Normandy in the third and held on to win the game and
snap a two-game conference losing streak.
“I thought we might’ve been a little flat at the start,”
said Head Coach Mike Murray, whose Pirates trailed by eight (16-8) by the end
of the opening quarter. “Shots weren’t falling and guys were getting hesitant
to shoot more.”
Turnovers were also an issue at the outset of the game.
Rocky River committed four turnovers in the first quarter; the Pirates would be
tagged with just five more the rest of the game.
Robby Lang drained a triple in River’s first possession of
the second frame. That got the home five within five – at 16-11. But a big
quarter for Normandy big man Stefan Stanic would keep the Invaders sailing
along with that five-point lead – all the way to halftime, at which point the
Invaders led the Pirates, 27-22. Stanic did damage from the outside and in the
paint and on defense in blocking or altering shots. He would finish the game
with 22 points and three blocks.
For the Pirates, the chipping away at their deficit would
become hacking it away with axe in the early minutes of the third quarter. The
Maroon & White opened the third with a 5-0 run, a stretch capped off by a Lang
bucket set up by an inventive rebound and pass from teammate Charlie Hudson. Rocky
River eventually worked its way to a 37-34 lead late in the period. The Pirates
would go into the fourth quarter leading by two (39-37).
The Pirates – out-rebounded, 14-11, over the opening half –
controlled the boards to the tune of an 11-5 edge in the third. River’s glass
tactics paid off in the fourth, too – the Pirates out-rebounded the Invaders,
19-7, in the second half.
In the fourth quarter, that rebounding advantage was
leveraged by River outshooting Normandy and by the Pirates getting to the
free-throw line nine times, making seven.
Rocky River upped its lead to six (44-38) on a couple Tommy
Ruma free-throw tosses at the 4:56-mark of the fourth. By the midpoint of the
fourth frame, the River lead was 46-42. The game then became glued to those
digits until an exchange of free throws in the final two minutes. The Invaders got
as close at two (46-44), but the exchange at the charity stripe went the way of
the home side, and the Pirates closed out the home-court win.
In doing so, Rocky River (7-5, 5-3 GLC) closed out a
two-game season sweep of the Invaders. River beat Normandy, 51-35, in Parma on
Dec. 3. Stanic did not play in that contest, and the Pirates shot 54%
(19-of-35) from the field.
On Tuesday, the Sons of Blackbeard shot 42.5% (17-of-40)
from the floor. They were buoyed by a 6-of-19 (31.6%) performance from 3-point
range and an 11-of-17 (65%) night at the free-throw line. River finished as a
plus-9 on the boards (30 rebounds to Normandy’s 21) and a minus-1 in turnovers
Individually, the Pirates got 18 points from Tommy Ruma, 11
points from Charlie Hudson, eight points and seven boards from Robby Lang, and
seven points and four steals from Braedon Spies.
For the Invaders, Stanic scored his 22 on a 9-of-18 shooting
night. No other Normandy player logged more than six points and the rest of the
team combined to shoot 37.5% (9-of-24) from the field.
“Our defense did a nice job in not letting any secondary
scorer get on track,” said Murray, whose Pirates have now held foes under 50
points on four separate occasions this season.
CANNON FIRE …
ROCKY RIVER IS NOW …: 6-3 on its home court this season. River has won three in a row at the Corner of Wagar & Detroit … 9-2 over its last 11 games against Normandy … 7-1 this season when allowing fewer than 60 points.
TOMMY GUN: With his 18 points on Tuesday evening, Tommy Ruma saw a run of 20-point performances come to an end. Ruma had scored 20-plus over each of River’s four previous games. The senior guard has netted 113 points of the team’s last five contests. His 16.1 points per game this season are a team-high.
by Skip Snow
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