ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- It was a season debut delayed, and in the end, a rally just a beat off schedule as well, as the Rocky River Pirates fell to the Parma Redmen, 56-55, on Tuesday night.
After a week on the COVID-19 pandemic pause button, the Pirates hit play with a hard-fought Great Lakes Conference tussle against a quality Parma foe, opening the 101st season of RRHS hoops on home hardwood in front of a limited crowd. Rocky River would be sharp early and determined late, winning the bracket quarters in the eventual loss. The visiting Redmen were strongest in the middle frames and overall benefited from the dynamic scoring of senior guard Allan Eason, who poured in 31 points on a 12-of-20 shooting performance.
Eason's efforts led the Redmen (2-0, 2-0 GLC) to a 47-40 lead in the early moments of the fourth quarter after the two sides had been split by a mere possession for most of the first 24 minutes of play. Rocky River (0-1) showed impressive resolve, heart, and hustle in whittling its deficit to one point in the waning moments of the contest.
"I do like how resilient we were," said Head Coach Mike Murray, whose Pirates return two starters and seven lettermen from last year's 14-11 squad. "We kept fighting and fighting and made some great plays down the stretch after we went down seven."
That fight included a 5-0 run by the Pirates over the middle minutes of the fourth, River forcing six Parma turnovers in the quarter, a monster 3-pointer from senior guard Nathan Robertson with nine seconds remaining, and a tremendous clutch steal by junior guard Braedon Spies with four seconds left.
River would sink 20-of-28 (71.4%) free throws for the game, but a misfire on one with a chance to tie -- at the 4.2-second-mark -- left a one-point cushion, in favor of the visitors when the final digits were hoisted on the Rocky River Gymnasium scoreboard at game's end.
"Give Parma credit," said Murray. "I thought Eason was outstanding and made some difficult shots. And they made stops when needed."
Rocky River outscored Parma, 17-12, in the fourth quarter after having outscored the Redmen, 16-12, in the opening stanza. Over the second and third periods, Parma outscored River, 32-22.
For the game, the Redmen shot 46% (23-of-50) from the field. They went 5-of-13 (22.7%) on threes and 5-of-13 (38.5%) from the charity stripe. Rocky River shot 39% (16-for-41) from the floor and 23.1% (3-of-13) from beyond the arc. Rebounds (RR 29, Parma 28) and turnovers (RR 23, Parma 21) were a near-even exchange. But Murray figures the latter as a particular measure of misplaced opportunity:
"Twenty-three turnovers was way too many. We never got into a flow offensively. We didn't reverse the ball and that got us caught on one side of the court too many times."
To be fair to both offenses, Tuesday's battle included a pair of GLC foes that had combined for just 144 points in last year's home-and-home series. Ball-hawking defensive play resulted in a 45-34 Redmen win in Parma on Jan. 17 and a 35-30 Pirate victory in Rocky River on Feb. 18. So, by comparison, Tuesday's tilt at the Corner of Wagar & Detroit was practically mid-80s NBA ball.
The offense managed by River was paced by Braedon Spies, who finished with a career-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Doing much damage from the free-throw line, Charlie Hudson chimed in with 15 points. The senior captain and top returning scorer from a year ago (12.9 points per game) went 11-of-14 from the stripe. Tommy Bebie and Nathan Robertson added seven points each.
Spies' offensive performance was matched on the defensive end where he equaled a single-game career-best with six steals. The Pirates registered 12 steals as a team. Spies also led River in rebounding, with seven boards. Bebie was the Pirates' top assist man, with three passes setting up teammates for buckets.
As a team -- after all the passes and every second in the 32 minutes of clock time, River's Basketball Buccaneers came up just one bucket short.
CANNON FIRE ...
FIRST TASTE: Logging first-time varsity minutes Tuesday were junior guard Justin Gina and sophomore guard Gavin O'Brien. The Pirates' opening-night roster included two seniors, seven juniors, and three sophomores. Serving as captains for the 2020-21 season are senior guard Charlie Hudson -- an All-GLC Second Teamer a year ago, junior forward/center Robby Lang (GLC Honorable Mention), and senior guard Nathan Robertson.
ODDS & ENDS: Rocky River and Parma have now played 11 times since the Great Lakes Conference was formed in 2015. The Pirates are 6-5 over what has been a taut annual series. ... River is 1-5 over its last six season openers. The Pirates lost to Westlake, 71-51, in last year's lid-lifter. ... Braedon Spies has now logged multiple steals 10 times in 31 career games.
by Skip Snow
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