Rocky River City Schools News Article

Bucs best in battle with Bearcats

Michael Swallow

ROCKY RIVER, Ohio (Jan. 9. 2024) -- Rocky River got an all-hands-on-deck performance in a Wednesday non-conference victory over visiting Bedford. The Pirates benefited from production up and down the roster in a hard-fought 43-39 win over a talented Bearcats team that went into the affair with a mark of 5-3.

River prevailed in a contest that had three sizeable momentum swells over the first 20 minutes of play and finished with a taut back-and-forth over the final 12. In a staunch defensive effort, the Basketball Buccaneers forced 18 turnovers en route to holding a foe under-40 points for the first time since Jan. 31 last season. The win marked the Pirates' third in a row.

Rocky River (6-3) was shaky at the outset. Coach Mike Murray swapped out the starting five after waiting nearly five minutes for the Pirates to score their first points of the game. And Murray's Buccaneer bench bunch came through with excellent play at both ends.

After falling behind 5-0 at the start of the game and eventually 10-3 by late in the first period, a River five comprised of Thomas Asimou, Gio Lizzini, Jeff Maslar, Jackson Paige, and Hakeem Zayed got the home side back in the game with big plays at both ends of the floor. At 5:45 of the second, when Lizzini scored his second of back-to-back baskets on as many trips down the floor, the Double-R found itself within one of the Bearcats (5-4) at 10-9.

The game script was fully flipped to a new Paige when Jackson Paige tripled at the 1:50-mark to put River up by five (17-12).  Paige finished with three points and two assist in eight minutes of floor time. Lizzini registered 8P and four rebounds in 10 minutes. Asimou finished as a plus-8 in a microwave-four-minute stint. The end result was an 11-0 run, and the home five would eventually tote a 19-12 lead into halftime. Hard-nosed, ball-hawking defense held Bedford to just two points in that second stanza.

But the pendulum would swing back to the Bearcats. The visitors knocked down three triples as part of a 17-7 surge in the third. Bedford went into the fourth quarter leading 29-28.

In that final frame, Rocky River outshot Bedford, and the Pirates logged lunch-pail efforts on the boards and on defense. An in a game with a frenetic pace, River committed just one turnover in the final eight-minute period and just nine for the game. The game was tied 39-39 with 75 seconds remaining, and the Pirates scored the final four points of the night, getting a 3-ball from Danny Berg at 1:10 and then a free throw from Julian Patti at 18 seconds.

Rocky River survived a dodgy 5-for-10 performance at the charity stripe, but the Pirates finished as a rock-solid plus-9 in turnovers and was able to double up the Bearcats in points in the paint (24-12). Bedford out-rebounded River 35-27. From the floor, the Bearcats shot 33.3% (15-of-45); the Pirates shot 34.7% (17-of-49).

"I am so proud of our kids," said Murray, whose Raiders have yielded just 42.7 points per game in their win streak. "Our guys played so hard and battled in every possession at both ends."

The Pirates won the contest despite not having a player log double figures in the scoring column. Berg joined Lizzini with eight. Patti added seven; Jaden Charney and Michael Swallow each had five. Ryan Ricketti finished with four points and six steals.

Jaivon Hudson registered 17P for Bedford.
The Pirates will pick back up with conference play Friday when they travel to Elyria to take on Great Lakes Conference West Division foe Elyria Catholic (7 p.m. tip-off). After playing four straight games at home, the contest at ECHS will mark the beginning of a stretch that has the Buccaneers playing four of five games away from the Corner of Wagar & Detroit.

by Skip Snow

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