North Ridgeville’s gameplan was a simple one Friday night. On the road against Westlake, the Rangers executed it to perfection.
Four Rangers scored in double figures as they dominated down low, slowed the Demons’ typically high-energy attack with stifling defense and came away with a 67-58 victory.
Leading North Ridgeville was Dom Farago and Bryce Neumann, each with 19 points. Neumann and Farago also had seven and five rebounds respectively. Caden Masterson was close behind with 16 points nine rebounds and Nate Theus rounded out the Rangers’ high-scorers with 10 points.
“I thought that our guys made plays for four quarters,” Rangers coach Bryan Morgan said. “Westlake’s one of the better teams in our conference (and) we knew that coming in we were going to have to play four quarters of basketball. They cut into it a little bit but our guys made plays the whole night.”
The Rangers built up a 21-11 lead after the first quarter and used an early push in the second to increase the lead to 25-11.
After coach Josh Huber’s timeout, the Demons (11-7, 9-6 SWC) battled back to take a 30-29 lead with 2:51 left in the half, thanks in part to a barrage of 3-pointers from junior guard Michael Stenger, three in consecutive possessions.
That lead was short-lived, though, as North Ridgeville (4-15, 3-12 SWC) went on an 8-2 run and took a 37-32 lead into halftime. The Rangers used the third quarter to extend their lead, allowing just five points and scoring 14 of their own, all inside the arc.
In total, North Ridgeville scored 56 of its points on twos with the balance coming on eight free throws and one 3-pointer by Neumann.
“They were very aggressive driving the ball and we didn’t do a very good job of keeping them off their right-hand drives,” Huber said. “They were able to get to the middle, get to their right hand, kind of at will, and we did not do a good job of helping on their drives. Defensively we had a lot of breakdowns. It’s one thing to get beat, but they were beating us with point-blank shots.”
Westlake had opportunities of its own, but couldn’t consistently capitalize. The Demons were 8-of-32 from 3-point range and 16-of-36 on field goals. The Demons were without leading scorer, Justin Garcia. Just before the game, the team learned that Garcia would miss the game and, potentially, the rest of the season with a fracture in his right leg.
“It’s unfortunate, it’s bad timing but hopefully he gets it behind him,” Huber said.
In Garcia’s stead, Austin Norris lead the Demons with 10 points while Joe Klessel added nine points and 10 rebounds and Stenger had nine as well.
“We just executed (our gameplan) and it worked out well for us,” Farago said. “Our chemistry was just up all around. We were looking for the open pass and we all played well.”
With just three games left this season for North Ridgeville, it appears the Rangers are hitting their stride at the right time with playoffs just around the corner. They’ll take on Amherst at home on Friday in their second-to-last regular-season game.
“Once (our team) gets consistent, they can be dangerous,” Morgan said. “The good part is, six of them are coming back next year.”
For Westlake, Huber said his team has to learn from this loss before moving onto its final four games. The Demons have back-to-back home games against Lakewood and Bay on Friday and Tuesday.
“I don’t think we played with a good enough effort to win tonight, so I think we have to understand that, with Justin being hurt, no one person has to do everything,” Huber said. “But everybody’s got to do a little bit more. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that tonight. Going forward, to have success, we’re going to have to have some guys step up.”
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