ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- It wasn't easy -- not for one minute of the 32 hustling and hard-fought played. But the Rocky River Pirates are headed for Wednesday's title game in the RBA Holiday Classic at the Corner of Wagar & Detroit. The Pirates earned their Wednesday 5 p.m. date against Brunswick courtesy of a 55-50 victory over the Padua Bruins on Tuesday evening.
Rocky River (3-2) trailed by as many as 10 points late in the second quarter and trailed by five (29-24) at the half. But an all-hands-on-deck, up-and-down-the-bench effort got the Maroon & White back into the game in the latter minutes of the third frame. River would close out the fourth quarter in much the same fashion in pulling out the victory at home.
Fueled with buckets by Braedon Spies, Will DeClerck, and Gavin O'Brien, the Pirates went on an 11-3 run late in the third. The Double-R went into the fourth leading 40-39. O'Brien was also a standout in defending against Akinlana Popoola, a Bruins guard who had a sensational first half for the Bruins. O'Brien was also one of four Pirates to knock down big momentum-building triples during the contest.
O'Brien, Justin Gina, Braedon Spies, and Ian Tomsik stepped up and drained River's big shots from distance. Tomsik went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc en route to scoring a career-high 12 points in the game. As a team, River went 7-of-23 (30.4) on 3-pointers. Padua shot a similar 28.6% (6-of-21); where the Pirates separated themselves in the shooting exchange was inside the arc. The Sons of Blackbeard were dialed in on mid-range jumpers and finished the game 13-of-23 (56.5%) on 2-point attempts.
A deep Rocky River defense forced the visiting five into four fourth-quarter turnovers while contesting every shot to the hilt. The Pirates would hold the Bruins to a 15.4% (2-of-13) field-goal accuracy mark in the fourth. And the River side chipped away at a Padua lead built over the early minutes of the final frame.
A Tomsik triple keyed a late charge for the Pirates, but with Riley Cervanka knocking down a 3 and the Bruins getting a pair of free throws, Padua led by three (50-47) inside the two-minute mark.
After the Pirates edged two points closer and with one minute remaining in the contest, Gina found twine on a monster 3-ball from the left flank to put River ahead 52-50. The senior guard followed that up with a key rebound just seconds later. That exchange set up the final 60 ticks as ones full of tension ... and of time outs, fouls, and free throws.
Spies and Robby Lang knocked down key buckets from the charity stripe. By the final buzzer, the host Pirates had scored 13 of the game's final 18 points.
For the game, the Pirates outshot the Bruins 43.5% to 31%. Padua won most of the other battles in the books. The Bruins leveraged 15 offensive rebounds to win the battle on the glass (37-31), and they were a plus-2 in turnovers (9 to 11).
The Sons of Blackbeard did come up with big stops, though, and the defense had its moments. Led by Lang's four swats, the Pirates logged a season-high five blocked shots on the night.
For the game, Lang clocked 13 points, 11 boards, and six assists. His 13-and-11 marked the sixth double-double of his career. Braedon Spies finished with 12 points and seven assists.
Rocky River had 17 assists, and the Pirates have now hit that more-than-respectable total in three straight games.
by Skip Snow
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