ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- The Pirates earned a swashbuckling tournament victory Tuesday night. Rocky River survived a late comeback by the North Olmsted Eagles to close out a 45-44 win in the consolation bracket of the Great Lakes Conference Tournament.
Senior forward Robby Lang outdueled senior guard Davonte Demionov in an impressive exchange of clutch baskets at both ends of the floor. Lang led the home five with 20 points on an 8-for-13 shooting night. Demionov slashed his way to 16 points to lead the Eagles, who were alert in forcing key turnovers in a second-half rally that saw them overcome a nine-point (36-27) end-of-the-third deficit to take a one-point lead (40-39) by the 2:50-mark of the fourth quarter.
With the win, Rocky River advances to a Friday night game at Elyria Catholic. The Pirates have won back-to-back consolation games after being ousted by Buckeye in the opening round of the tournament's championship bracket on Feb. 8. All three GLC tournament games have been close shaves for the Pirates: each has been decided by two possessions or less.
On Tuesday at Rocky River Gymnasium, any home-court advantage appeared to be out the window when the visitors opened the contest by taking a 7-0 lead. But River closed out the first on a 9-3 run to trail by just one (10-9) heading into the second. The Pirates would finish out the second period in even more dominant fashion, going on an 8-0 run to head into halftime with a 21-15 lead. The Maroon & White held the Eagles to just two field goals in the second quarter, none after the 5:30-mark.
Rocky River extended its lead to nine by the start of the fourth quarter. But a 3-point play by Demionov early in the fourth cut the Pirate advantage to four (36-32). Senior guard Justin Gina countered with a triple to put River back in front by seven. In a low-scoring Pirate fourth, Gina's 3-ball would figure as a key basket.
As the middle minutes of the final frame ticked away, North Olmsted chipped away at the Rocky River lead. Solid both-ends-of-the-floor play by junior Miles Ciulla and senior Mario Koch fueled nine Eagle points off turnovers in the fourth. When Koch scored on a lay-up at 2:50, North Olmsted had its first lead (40-39) since the early moments of the second stanza.
Robby Lang then muscled the Pirates to a late-game 6-0 run, turning offensive rebounds into second-chance points on two occasions and leveraging a Gina rebound and a nifty Patrick Lange pass on a third. River's 45-41 lead would be put to the test the rest of the way.
With 24 seconds remaining Ciulla connected on a trey to cut the Pirate lead to one (45-44). After a Rocky River turnover and a series of tense-moment time-outs, North Olmsted put the final possession of the game into motion.
Demionov drove the lane with just seconds remaining and dished off to senior forward Jacob Tepper on the right block. Tepper released a shot with a couple seconds remaining. The buzzer would sound a couple beats later. But before that, another sound would be heard. A sound to be heard by just a few: perhaps the shooter, one River defender, and a couple players nearby in the paint. It would be the sound of Robby Lang's right hand, swatting the orb to the floor. And there it was hauled in by fellow senior Braedon Spies as time expired.
The readings bracketing the triple-zeroes on the scoreboard: Home 45, Visitor 44.
A tremendous play made by a senior standout having a tremendous month. After a valiant comeback by a senior-laden North Olmsted bunch. Court time for the seniors on both sides could well be growing short as district playoff time approaches. As they look back on this one five months or five years or 25 years from now, they'll file this game away as a shining example -- for both sides -- as to what all the hard work and bus rides were all about.
CANNON FIRE ...
BUCS-SCORE HIGHLIGHTS: For the game, North Olmsted outshot Rocky River 39% to 35.4%. The Eagles went 7-of-11 (63.6%) from the free-throw line; the Pirates went 8-of-13 (61.5%). North Olmsted outscored River 17-6 in points off turnovers; the Pirates countered with a 28-16 edge on points in the paint. Rocky River had 18 offensive rebounds as part of a 41-17 edge on the boards. The Eagles were a plus-5 (8 to 13) in the turnover exchange. ... For the Eagles, Davonte Demionov finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Miles Ciulla had 10 points; Mario Koch added seven points and five assists. ... For the Pirates, Robby Lang registered 20 points and nine boards. Braedon Spies clocked nine points and three assists. Justin Gina logged eight points and 10 rebounds.
BANG-BANG: Across five February games -- and despite one low-minute, five-foul affair -- Lang has scored 104 points while wrestling away 46 rebounds. The senior forward is shooting 62.1% (41-of-66) from the floor over that stretch.
YOUNG BUCS: In Tuesday night developmental action, the Eagles defeated the River freshman squad 37-35. The Pirates took the JV game 44-40. Junior Jamal Mansour(19 points) and sophomore Hakeem Zayed (12) combined to score nearly three-quarters of River's points in that one.
by Skip Snow
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