ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- The Pirates withstood a hard-charging comeback by the visiting Rangers, as Rocky River prevailed over Lakewood in a Friday-night Great Lakes Conference crossover battle. A mid-third-quarter 13-point (44-31) lead was whittled down to two, extended back to eight and shaved down to two again before River could win a foul-line tussle at the end of a 66-60 battle.
Rocky River (10-9) was a minus-8 in turnovers, committing 23 to Lakewood's 15. Senior guard Hakeem Quran made River pay for those miscues; with an array of looks inside and outside the arc, Quran piled up a game-high 27 points. But the Sons of Blackbeard answered with junior Gavin O'Brien's 19 and senior Braedon Spies' 13 in a tense evening at the Corner of Wagar & Detroit.
Lakewood suffered an abysmal first-quarter shooting slump, going just 1-for-12 (8.3%) in falling behind 16-2. River worked its way to a 38-28 lead by halftime. The home five extended its lead to 44-31 in the third. But nifty 3-point shooting would get the Rangers within six (53-47) by the time the fourth got underway.
Lakewood scored the first four points of the fourth to get within two (53-51). The Rangers leveraged nine fourth-quarter turnovers to stay in the game, but they never leveled the score or pulled ahead. With the Pirates leading 55-53, the Double-R got 3-pointers on back-to-back trips up the floor by Spies and O'Brien -- one from the left corner and one from the right. It looked like a 1-2 punch to finish off the Rangers, but Lakewood returned serve and got back within two (61-59) on a Quran triple with just-over two minutes remaining.
River would force a couple key turnovers the rest of the way, and Lakewood would net just one free throw over the final 120 seconds. Over that stretch, O'Brien went to the stripe six times. He drained five throws to close out the 66-60 win.
For the game, Rocky River went 11-of-15 (73.3%) from the line; Lakewood went 9-of-12 (75%). The Pirates shot 46.2% (24-of-52) from the floor; the Rangers countered with 35.6% (21-of-59). River hauled down 36 rebounds to Lakewood's 26.
Quran went 9-of-17 from the field and had seven boards. He knocked down four 3-pointers. Junior Miles Harper added eight points, three rebounds, and three assists. Senior Riley Ulintz clocked seven points and three assists.
For Rocky River, the recent run of points for senior forward Robby Lang (74 in River's previous three games) was slowed by a barrage of whistles. Lang fouled out with 10 points and six rebounds in 16 minutes. His time on the floor was impactful -- he was a plus-18 -- if not perplexing to onlookers who have a general idea of what sort of contact constitutes a personal foul.
O'Brien had four treys as part of his 19-point night. Spies drained three from beyond the arc as part of his 13 points. He also had nine rebounds and five assists. Despite the turnovers they piled up in the game, River's passing was at times masterful. Four players -- led by Spies and Stan Heuler with five each -- had three-or-more assists, and the Pirates had 22 as a team.
The other half of the Air-Quote Lang/e Brothers gave the Maroon & White a boost with his play in the paint. Senior forward Patrick Lange had a three-point play as part of a 4-for-6, nine-point performance. Heuler added six points and five boards. That Lange, Heuler, and Will DeClerck went a combined 9-for-13 from the floor gave River a major boost and a competent answer to the phantom whistles on Lang.
And now the consolation brackets in the GLC tournament click forward a notch. Rocky River will host North Olmsted on Tuesday (7 p.m.).
by Skip Snow
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