Rocky River City Schools News Article

Hot-shooting Pirates prevail in opener

RR Boys Basketball

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio (Dec. 1, 2023) -- First stop Willoughby. The Pirate train has left the station, and the 104th season of River basketball is now on the track. On Friday night, Rocky River opened its 2023-24 season with a 68-55 triumph in a hard-fought tussle at Willoughby South.

The season lid-lifter for both teams was a step back in time of sorts: the Pirates and Rebels opened against one another last season as well. Rocky River won that game -- on home hardwood -- with a stifling defensive performance. The stingy Buccaneers limited South to an 11-of-48 (22.9%) performance from the floor in a 43-29 victory. In Friday's return game in Willoughby, the Sons of Blackbeard steamed ahead with a strong offensive performance in a come-from-behind effort.  

Was that offense on track all night? Not exactly.

Rocky River (1-0) -- now winner of three consecutive season openers -- went just 4-of-18 (28.6%) from the field in the first frame. And those four didn't come without some duress. The host Rebels scored 16 of the game's first 20 points. Only after a 6-0 run did the Roundball Raiders go into the second period trailing by six, 16-10.

The Pirate offense got fully cranked up in that second period. The Maroon & White went 6-of-10 from the field and got to the free-throw line nine times (making seven). By late in the second, River had leveled the score 27-27. South would go into halftime leading 32-29.

The third stanza was a decisive one for the visiting five. The Sons of Blackbeard outshot the Rebels 57%-35% and out-rebounded them 7-3 while logging a plus-4 in the turnover exchange. That all made for a plus-11 on the scoreboard, and Rocky River went into the fourth leading 49-41. The fourth eight-minute period was one in which the Pirates gave no quarter.

Shooting 61.5% (8-of-13) the rest of the way, the Buccaneers closed out the victory. The lead was never in jeopardy, and the final 68-55 score was only as close as it was due to a late run by the home five.

For the game, River got 44 points in the paint and held the Rebels to just four offensive rebounds. The Pirates went 26-of-51 (51%) from the floor and 13-of-16 (81.3%) from the foul line. They committed just seven turnovers, only two of which came after halftime. The seven miscues marked the program's fewest in a single game since Feb. 7, 2020 (five vs. Elyria Catholic). The Pirates finished Friday's game as a plus-7 in that same department.

Individually, Rocky River was led by senior guard Julian Patti's career-high 27 points as part of a double-double (10 rebounds). Michael Swallow went 5-of-7 from the floor in adding 13 points and six boards. Seniors Jaden Charney (11P) and Ryan Ricketti (9P) combined to add 20 more points. Ricketti also filed a game-high four steals.

Delond Moss tallied 20 points for the Rebels, who shot 45.7% from the field (21-of-46) while going 5-of-8 (62.5%) from the line. River out-rebounded South 28-19.

It was perhaps a slow start in this season opener. But the Double-R train got rolling, and it will eventually pull into stop No. 2 -- Dec. 8 at Normandy -- in the best fashion possible. With a 1-0 record.


The 2023-24 Pirates return three starters and six lettermen from a squad that went 14-10 last season. There are six seniors on the team; they are Jaden Charney, Gio Lizzini, Julian Patti, Ryan Ricketti, Joe Schill, and Hakeem Zayed. Team captains are Charney, Patti, Ricketti, and Zayed. Newcomers include junior guard Thomas Asimou, freshman guard Danny Berg, Lizzini, and junior guard Jackson Paige. Berg (4P) and Lizzini (2P) registered their first varsity points Friday at South.  

QUARTERBACKING THE OFFENSE: Patti logged his career-best 27 points with percentages similar to those he hoisted at quarterback for the Gridiron Pirates this fall. The senior went 10-of-15 from the floor and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. His previous game-high had been 21 points, which he tallied twice last season when he averaged 8.8 points per game. Patti's 10 rebounds also marked his most in a single game. ... Michael Swallow's 15 points were also a career-high; they were nearly twice his previous record of eight points recorded Jan. 13 vs. North Olmsted.

by Skip Snow

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