BAY VILLAGE, Ohio -- War by the Shore take-1 goes to the Bay Rockets. Tuesday night, in a hard-fought, physical tussle at Bay Gymnasium, the Rockets defeated the Pirates 63-55.
Bay leveraged two surges -- a 20-11 run in the second quarter and a 12-0 run in the fourth -- as it won on home hardwood for just the first time this season. Depth in scoring, a slew of steals, and a strong transition game led the Rockets to the triumph in front of a raucous crowd in the Great Lakes Conference West Division tilt.
Rocky River (3-6, 1-4 GLC West) led by a possession for the last couple minutes of the opening quarter and the first three of the second frame. But when junior guard Jack Moell scored on a dribble and a bold drive to the hoop at the 4:30-mark, the Rockets passed the Pirates on the scoreboard 15-14. The Moell bucket was a part of Bay's 20-11 run, and the home five would not trail the rest of the way. Junior guard Andrew Chesterfield hit key back-to-back baskets amid a flurry of River turnovers late in the second quarter. The Rockets extended their lead past a couple possessions, but the Pirates got a buzzer-beating field goal by senior forward Robby Lang on a pass from senior guard Braedon Spies to cut the Bay advantage to 31-25 as the first half expired.
The Rockets registered a 56.3% effective field-goal mark in that second stanza. Bay would shoot 43.2% (effective) for the game.
Staunch defense and the team's best shooting period of the night got Rocky River within four at two different points of the third quarter. River knocked down a few big buckets in a guts-and-hustle push to get back into the game.
"Our guys played really hard," said head coach Mike Murray. "They were executing, but then we turned the ball over too much and that worked against us."
The Pirates got clutch, late-third 3-point field goals by junior forward Stan Heuler and junior guard Gavin O'Brien. After three quarters, Bay led 42-36.
A Braedon Spies score got River within four (42-38) when the fourth quarter got underway. But the Rockets countered with pressure defense, a strong transition game, and cutters getting open looks in the lane.
The next 12 points of the contest were scored by the athletes sporting red, white, and blue colors. Rocky River would finish the quarter with an untenable eight turnovers which led to 10 Bay points.
The Sons of Blackbeard finished the game strong -- on a 17-9 run -- but that surge would be too little too late. And the Rockets closed out what marked their fourth win in a row and the Pirates' fourth loss in a row.
For the game, River clocked a 43% effective field-goal rate. The Pirates went 17-of-36 on 2-point attempts and 3-of-14 from distance. River won the battle on the boards 41-32 but was a minus-10 in the turnover exchange: the Pirates committed 25 turnovers to Bay's 15. Both teams struggled mightily at the free-throw line, with River going 12-of-24 (50%) and Bay going 12-of-22 (54.5%).
With Tuesday's win, Bay has now defeated Rocky River in four straight and 16 of the last 17 meetings between the two west-side neighbors. The Rockets and Pirates are scheduled to tangle at Rocky River Gymnasium on Feb. 4.
On Tuesday, the Rockets had four players finish in double figures in scoring. Senior guard Sam Houk had 12 points and five steals. Jack Moell logged 10 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Senior forward Owen Payne had 13 points and was 5-of-6 from the foul line. Andrew Chesterfield had 11 points and three steals.
The River side of the ledger was highlighted by a 21-point, 11-rebound, five-assist performance by Braedon Spies. The 21-and-11 marked the first double-double of Spies' career. Robby Lang logged 10 points and six rebounds. Will DeClerck and Patrick Lange each clocked six points and five rebounds. Stan Heuler had five points and eight boards. Heuler has 22 rebounds of Rocky River's last three games.
Tuesday's game at Bay closed out the first half of the Pirates' Great Lakes Conference West Division schedule. In a format that has the Maroon & White playing a home-and-home series with the five other GLC West foes, Rocky River has now played each opponent once. The Pirates' second trip around the block will get underway with a Friday night (7:30 p.m.) road game at North Olmsted.
And Mike Murray sees better days ahead in that second go-around: "I feel like we're getting close to where we need to be," said Murray. "Once we put it together, we are going to be really tough at both ends of the floor."
by Skip Snow
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