ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- After averaging 60.4 points per contest over its first five games this season, Rocky River has tallied just 45.7 per game over its last three. All three of those games have been losses, the third coming Friday in a 58-48 setback against Elyria Catholic in Great Lakes Conference West Division play.
The Pirates (3-5, 1-3 GLC West) were undone by a long and athletic Panther defense that held River to an 8-of-27 (29.6%) mark from 3-point range and by continued problems at the free-throw line. At the other end of the floor, Elyria countered with an effective field-goal rate of 64.7%. The Panthers scored 32 of their 58 points in the paint and shot a robust 59.3% (16-of-27) on 2-point field goals.
Rocky River trailed early, but when Stan Heuler and Robby Lang found twine on back-to-back possessions mid-second-period, the Pirates worked themselves into a 21-16 lead. Heuler finished the game with nine points, all on buckets from beyond the arc; Lang had a team-high 14 points on a night bolstered by a 5-of-6 performance at the free-throw line.
But Heuler, Lang, and the rest of the Pirates found themselves back in a three-point hole after a 10-2 run by the visitors. EC would go into halftime leading 28-23. Rocky River went 4-of-15 (26.7%) from the floor in the second quarter.
The Roundball Raiders trailed by as many as nine early in the third quarter, but again in a mid-period surge got themselves back in the back in the game. When Gavin O'Brien and Robby Lang drained 3-pointers at 3:00 and 2:15 of the third, River had leveled the proceedings at 34-34.
But the next 10 points -- five in the third quarter and five in the fourth -- would be scored by the Panthers. After that run -- one propelled by the play of senior center Jack Kenneally and senior guard Denny Fischer -- little doubt remained the rest of the way. Kenneally finished with a game-high 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting; he also logged three steals and as many blocked shots. Fischer went 3-of-4 from distance and tallied 13 points for the game.
Will DeClerck and Braedon Spies spearheaded a Pirate defense that forced its most turnovers in a game (16) since Dec. 10 (22 vs. North Olmsted). DeClerck finished the night with three steals. Spies added two thefts to a line which also included eight points and six assists. River finished the contest as a plus-4 in the turnover battle. Elyria out-rebounded the Pirates 25-21.
And continuing what is essentially a season-long trend, Rocky River went just 8-of-14 (57.1%) from the foul line. The Pirates went into the game shooting just 61% at the charity stripe.
A four-game spate of GLC West games is slated to continue Tuesday when the Sons of Blackbeard raise the black and set sail for the rival waters of Bay Village. The Pirates will clank swords and exchange cannon fire with the Rockets Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
by Skip Snow
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