ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- Rocky River opened its season with a 56-34 victory over new Great Lakes Conference member North Olmsted Friday night.
The Pirates rode a monster 19-1 third quarter and solid shooting and defensive performances overall in launching their season in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd at Rocky River Gymnasium. Eleven River players found their names in the scoring column of a box score that tilted toward the home five in nearly every way.
Rocky River (1-0, 1-0 GLC West) outshot North Olmsted 43% to 31%. The Pirates leveraged 14 steals into an 18-6 advantage in points off turnovers, and the Sons of Blackbeard were solid in transition as well as in a half-court game fueled by crisp passing. The Pirates finished the game as a plus-7 in turnovers (15 to 22); riding nine offensive rebounds, they were a plus-4 (28-24) on the boards.
After a taut 19-15 first quarter -- with the Pirates taking the best fraction of that opening 34 -- River opened the second quarter by holding the Eagles scoreless for over four minutes. That defense -- bolstered by steals in both half-court and transition -- would hold North Olmsted to just four points in a 9-4 slog of a second period. Senior captains Patrick Lange and Braedon Spies were at the vanguard of that swarming defensive effort. Lange finished the night with three steals and a blocked shot. Spies registered five steals.
"I thought our pace early in the game was good," said head coach Mike Murray, who is entering his 12th season at the helm of the program. "We had some turnovers and passed up some shots, but we were able to score knock down some shots and establish a good lead."
Rocky River's vice-clamp defense was even more on display in the third quarter, and in that frame the Pirate offense was re-engaged. The Maroon & White went 7-of-12 from the floor with three triples; the Eagles couldn't buy a basket, going 0-for-10. The third period included a 16-0 run by the home five. The Pirates would lead by 27 (47-20) heading into the fourth, and the final stanza was one played out with little drama and much use of both benches.
For the game, the Roundball Raiders shot 42.6% (20-of-47) from the field. They went 7-of-22 (31.8%) from 3-point range. River was paced by junior Stan Heuler (12 points), senior forward Robby Lang (11 points), and senior guards Gavin O'Brien (seven points, five rebounds) and Ian Tomsik (seven points). Spies added four rebounds and four assists and was a team-high plus-30 in his 22 minutes of playing time. The Pirate frontcourt of Heuler, Lang, and Will DeClerck went a combined 11-of-17 (64.7%) from the floor.
Heuler did his damage from beyond the arc, where he was 4-of-5. His dozen points marked a career high.
The Eagles were led by the distance shooting of Miles Ciulla, whose combined distance on four 3-pointers was probably not too shy of 100 feet. The junior guard finished with 16 points. Senior forward Jacob Tepper added four points, seven boards, and two steals.
"It was a good first game for us overall," said Murray. "I really enjoyed having the pep band, Super Fans, and a full capacity crowd on hand."
Friday's contest was a West Division game in the new-look Great Lakes Conference
. The Pirates will have another West test when they travel to new-circuit-member Westlake for their next game on Friday.CANNON FIRE ...
The 2021-22 River roster includes seven seniors: Braedon Spies, Danny Garcia, Patrick Lange, Ian Tomsik, Justin Gina, Zach Wearsch, and Robby Lang. The team's captains are Spies, Lange, and Lang.
With his five steals Friday night, Braedon Spies passed 100 thefts in his career. Spies averaged 2.7 steals per game last year as a junior. The three-sport standout -- who had plenty of thefts in the fall with five interceptions on the gridiron -- is a three-year letterman in hoops who has now played in 52 games. Spies has logged 101 steals across those 52 contests. ... The Pirates' 14 steals as a team marked their most in a game since Jan. 26 (14 vs. Normandy). River averaged 8.6 SPG in going 10-13 last season.
by Skip Snow