AKRON, Ohio -- Fourth-quarter buzzer-beaters get all the attention, but sometimes the biggest baskets are scored in the early minutes of a game. That may well have been the case Tuesday with a 70-60 Rocky River win at Akron Ellet. The Pirates outscored the Orangemen 13-2 at the outset, and though the home five would get within three in the fourth quarter, the Sons of Blackbeard never trailed in the eventual road triumph.
The Pirates rebuffed Ellet's late charge in a fourth quarter that ended with 32 total points split equally to both sides. And that after a third quarter that witnessed the same distribution. And that after a second quarter in which 42 points were divvied up squarely. Quarters 2, 3, and 4 were an even exchange, reading 21-16-16 across in the scorebook. The Pirates' 17-7 advantage in the first quarter was the only visible daylight between River and Ellet.
That daylight was wedged into place by stingy defense and an excellent performance on the boards. Rocky River (2-1) held Ellet to a 2-of-9 mark from the floor in the opening quarter, and four offensive rebounds were part of an 11-5 edge on the glass. River shooting inside the arc got off to a slow start, but the Pirates knocked down a trio of 3-pointers in building their 10-point cushion early.
The Maroon & White led by double digits all through the second quarter and most of the third. They went into the fourth quarter leading 54-44. The Orangemen pulled off a 10-3 run to open the fourth, but the Roundball Raiders from River had an answer. Solid shooting and another dose of lockdown defense took the Pirates to the finish line. The visitors claimed 13 of the final 19 points scored.
For the game, Rocky River clocked an effective field-goal percentage (a measure leveling 33% shooting from distance with a 50% mark on 2-pointers) of 58.3%. The Pirates set up their good looks with efficient passing: they logged a season-high 17 assists against a season-low in turnovers (10). And from bonus distance, River was dialed in.
The Pirates went 11-of-23 (48.7%) from 3-point-land. Last year's squad had more triples in just one game (Jan. 26: 12 vs. Normandy). Three long-range bombers did the most damage, with Stan Heuler (3-for-5), Gavin O'Brien (4-for-6), and Braedon Spies (3-for-8) combining for 10 3-pointers. All three finished in double figures in scoring on the night, accounting for 11, 12, and 17 points, respectively. It was teammate Robby Lang taking care of things inside the arc.
Lang was a robust 9-of-13 from the floor -- including 1-of-1 from beyond the arc -- and 4-of-4 at the free-throw line in piling up a career-high 23 points. The senior captain had seven rebounds and was a plus-18 in his 27 minutes on the floor. The scoring performance marked his second career 20-point game (21 vs. Fairview, Jan. 19). Feeding Lang for the lion's share of his work inside was Spies, who had a game-high and career-best-tying seven assists.
Spies and Justin Gina were at the vanguard of River's plus-4 in turnovers (10 to Ellet's 14): they each garnered three steals. Lang, Heuler (seven rebounds), and Spies (six boards) were the Pirates' leaders in a 30-22 advantage on the glass.
The visitors prevailed despite being doubled up at the free-throw line. Ellet went 14-of-19 (73.7%) at the stripe; the Double-R went 7-of-8 (87.5%). The leading scorers for the Orangemen were Tevin Carter (18 points) and Anthony Jordan (17). Carter went 5-of-11 from distance and also had four steals.
CANNON FIRE ...
YOUNG BUCS: The River JV earned a 53-32 triumph at Ellet to improve to 2-1 on the season. In freshman action, the Pirates squeezed the Orangemen 38-24.
ON DECK: The game in Akron marked the first of two games this week for the Pirates. River will take on Wheelersburg in a neutral-site matinee on Thursday. That game is slated for a 3:15 p.m. tip.
by Skip Snow
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