FAIRVIEW PARK, Ohio (Jan. 17, 2023) -- Mark the year. In the 2022-23 regular season, the annual Battles of Wagar/210 were decided by a mighty thin margin. Perhaps one no broader than a stripe of yellow paint down the center of said west-side pavement stretching north and south between Rocky River High School and Fairview High School. On Jan. 3, the Warriors sunk the Pirates 56-50 in an overtime game at the Corner of Wagar & Detroit. On Tuesday night at Fairview, the Warriors looked to be cruising a regular-season sweep of the Pirates. Fairview outshot, out-rebounded, and out-defended the River squad in a dominant first half of play. At halftime, a battered Buccaneer bunch trailed the Warriors 37-16. The rest of the way was clanking swords (defensive stops) and cannon fire (3-pointers) in a swashbuckling Pirate rally, and Rocky River defeated Fairview 55-54.
Cold shooting turned hot, defensive miscues became long stretches of stops, and River got clutch performances up and down its roster as the Pirates engaged in their sixth game this season decided by six points or less. After shooting just 23.1% in the first half, the Double-R shot a sizzling 53.8% in the second. And that second half was rife with seven made 3-pointers. The Pirates committed seven turnovers in the first quarter but would be tagged with just four more the rest of the game. In the second half, Rocky River was a plus-8 in turnover margin (2-10). It all ticked away on the scoreboard, first as a prolific surge, then as a Fairview pushback, and finally as a 4-0 final minute, with the visiting five winning that exchange.
Fairview turned the tables on a strong rebounding River squad by hitting the offensive glass hard in the opening half. The Warriors (6-6, 4-3 Great Lakes Conference West Division) also hit five treys in building their 21-point halftime advantage. Jacob Rehor and Colin Meany were the Fairview leaders in that long-range bombing campaign. Each would hit multiple triples on the night, and Rehor was also at the vanguard of the Warriors' strong performance on the boards. A Pirate five that went into the game allowing just 48.5 points per game trudged into its locker room at halftime staring down its worst defensive performance of the season.
And then came the third period, a quarter in which the River Raiders gave none. The Pirates (8-5, 4-3) opened the third with a 12-4 run. All 12 Buccaneer points were scored from beyond the arc, with Julian Patti, Hakeem Zayed, Gavin O'Brien, and Censier Williams finding twine in that quartet of triples. The Pirates got within 10 -- at 43-34 -- when Will DeClerck scored off a nifty pass from Zayed at the 2:31-mark of the third.
Fairview got its lead back to 11 over the next couple minutes, but junior forward Ryan Ricketti then came up with a monster final minute of the period to send the Pirates into the fourth with a shot of momentum. Ricketti bombed in a 3-ball on offense and then came up with a steal on Fairview's ensuing possession, the final one of the quarter. The Warriors went into the fourth leading 47-39.
River chipped away at that Fairview advantage, and in the third minute of the final frame junior forward Jaden Charney keyed a five-point run that vaulted the Pirates in front. At the 5:38-mark, Charney swished a 3; at 5:13 he found Michael Swallow underneath and zipped a masterful pass from the left wing. Swallow converted on a reverse lay-up, and the scoreboard read: Visitors 48, Warriors 47.
The home five didn't manage a fourth-quarter point until the 4:18-mark, but Fairview would rally over the back half of the period. It led 54-51 with 90 seconds remaining.
Two veteran guards would split the final four points of the game. Both were wearing Maroon & White. Rocky River got within one (54-53) on a Julian Patti basket at 0:58. The Pirates tied the game and then took a one-point lead when Gavin O'Brien knocked down two tosses from the charity stripe on a crucial one-and-one at 0:39.
The final half-minute amounted to a missed Fairview free throw (on a one-and-one) and two stops by the Pirate defense.
Two stop signs enforced on a road called Wagar. And all signs are pointing to 2022 being a memorable year in this rivalry.
CANNON FIRE ...
FROM THE BUCS SCORE: From the field, Rocky River shot 35.7% (20-of-56); Fairview countered at 35.5% (22-of-62). On 3-pointers, the Pirates went 9-of-26 (34.6%) while the Warriors shot 37.5% 6-of-16. At the foul line, River went 6-of-8 and Fairview went 4-of-5. The Warriors out-rebounded the Pirates 40-30. Rocky River was a plus-4 (11-15) in turnovers. Rocky River tied a season high with six blocked shots and the two sides combined for nearly as many blocks (13) as there were steals (15). ... Indivually, Ryan Ricketti clocked a career-high 14 points and was a plus-11. Hakeem Zayed filed 3 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Julian Patti registered 8P, 6R, and 3A. Gavin O'Brien scored 9P; Will DeClerck had 8P, 7R, and three blocks. The Warriors were paced by Jacob Rehor (21P, 12R, three steals) and Colin Meany (10P, 5A).
LONG-DISTANCE CALL: River's season-high nine 3-pointers came on the heels of back-to-back misfire games. In losses Friday and Saturday, the Pirates went a combined 7-of-38 (18.4%) from distance. ... For the season, Rocky River is shooting 27.1% (60-of-221) from 3-point range. River's top riflemen from 19-9 have been Censier Williams (13-of-36, 36.1%), Ricketti (6-of-12, 50%) , and Jaden Charney (7-of-20, 35%).
CLOSE SHAVES: The last three RRHS-FHS series games have been decided by a combined eight points. The rivalry is split 2-2 over the last four games. ... For the season, the Pirates are 4-2 in games decided by six points or less.
ON THE HORIZON: On Friday, Rocky River will tangle with Westlake in a downtown version of their west-side suburban rivalry. The Pirates and Demons will play at Gund Arena*; tip time is slated for 1:30 p.m.
* My coverage, my rules on facility names. And thanks to this win, on street names.
by Skip Snow
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