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Eagles swoop in and swipe one from Pirates
Hakeem Zayed
ROCKY RIVER, Ohio (Jan. 13, 2023) -- Rocky River hosted North Olmsted Friday, as the Pirates and Eagles swung into the back half of Great Lakes Conference West Division play. The visiting five prevailed 57-45 in a contest that saw the Pirates struggle with their shooting in the first half and the Eagles leverage nine 3-pointers and a blue-collar effort on the boards.

River's early shooting was as cold as the pavement outside and nearby Rocky River Gymnasium, perhaps even the chilled, windblown actual Corner of Wagar & Detroit. The Raiders went just 6-of-23 (26.1%) from the field in the first half. Pirate miscues and North Olmsted steals fueled a 10-1 Eagles run at the outset of the second quarter. Rocky River would be tagged with six turnovers in that quarter and tote a nine-point deficit (26-17) into halftime.

Better Buccaneer shooting of, and handles on, the basketball in the second half was met by crisp passing and determined rebounding on the North Olmsted side. And the Eagles outscored the Pirates 19-13 to set up a boat-race final frame.

The final tally was one 15 points removed from Rocky River's 12-point win at North Olmsted on Dec. 9. In that game, the Pirates had 12 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded the host Eagles 37-27. On Friday, North Olmsted flipped that script, held River to six offensive boards, and won the carom tussle 28-21.

Senior captain Xavier Balson was a key factor for the Eagles. Balson had 10 of those rebounds while also blocking a pair of shots and giving the visitors a solid defensive presence in the paint. The NOHS distance brigade was led by forward Alex Pullin and guard Kameron Swanson, who combined to go 7-of-10 from beyond the arc.

For the game, Pullin logged 14 points and 6 assists. Swanson -- who hit four treys -- had 13 points. Guard Eggie Cordero led all scorers with 15 points. As a team, North Olmsted shot 48.8% (20-of-41) from the floor in a low-possession game. The Eagles went 9-of-18 (52.9%) from 3-point range and 8-of-15 (53.3%) from the free-throw line.

Hustling North Olmsted defense -- and more than a couple missed lay-ups -- helped the Eagles hold the Pirates to a season-low two points in transition.

Rocky River (7-4, 3-3 GLC West) shot 34% (17-of-50), including just 3-of-17 (17.6%) from beyond the arc. River went 8-of-14 (57.1%) at the foul line. The Pirates were a plus-1 (14 to 15) in turnover margin. Individually, they were led by guards Gavin O'Brien (9P) and Michael Swallow (8P) and center Will DeClerck (8P, four rebounds). Forward Hakeem Zayed added 4P, 7R, and 5A.

With the loss to North Olmsted (4-9, 2-4), the Pirates are now 1-4 across their last five games. Rocky River had beaten the Eagles in six straight games (2013-22) prior to Friday's setback in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd at Rocky River Gymnasium.

Friday's contest at the Pirate Palestra marked the front half of a weekend double for Rocky River. The Sons of Blackbeard will travel to Elyria for a non-conference game against the Elyria Pioneers Saturday (Elyria High School, 7 p.m.).

by Skip Snow

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