Avon boys basketball coach Mike Fitch was quick to point out the main culprit in his team’s 73-64 loss to visiting Berea-Midpark on Jan. 26.
“They went to their stud and we couldn’t stop him. He’s so good,” Fitch said.
The stud in question was the Titans’ 6-foot-7 monster in the middle, Alex Kvak, a frustrating combination of strength and court-sense that used his size to his advantage in a pivotal third quarter. The Titans outscored the Eagles 29-15 in the frame, erasing a five-point deficit and knocking the hosts off balance.
The Eagles continued to fight their way through the second half, but were unable to rally all the way back. Kvak finished with 19 points–14 after halftime–and six rebounds.
“Our game plan was stopping (Kvak), and they adjusted to that,” Fitch said. “They started bringing a help side guy away from the ball, and then he just did what he does. If he catches the ball under (the basket), you’re done.”
Devin Johnson also scored 19 points to help pace the Titans (7-4, 6-3 Southwestern Conference). He combined with Kvak to score 18 in the third quarter as they took the lead and started to pull away.
Eagles guard Dominic Rini scored a game-high 22 points and Mike Matlak had 17, but the team committed five turnovers during the third and surrendered a 9-0 Titans run that took them from being up 41-37 to down 46-41 in less than three minutes.
Down 46-44 with 1:30 left, the Eagles (5-5, 4-3 SWC) gave up a quick 7-0 Titans run, punctuated by a buzzer-beating lay-in from Kvak to make it 53-44 heading into the fourth. The Titans’ lead grew as high as 13 points, 68-55, as the teams traded baskets throughout the final eight minutes.
Not helping matters was the Titans’ increased effort on the boards. They outrebounded the Eagles 19-9 in the second half and used some of them to fuel their transition game.
“Rebounds and turnovers got us in the second half,” Fitch said. “If you have any turnovers up top, that’s going back for a layup, especially with the athletes (the Titans) have.”
Levis scored 18 off the bench and helped spark the Titans after what coach Duke Barther felt was a lackluster first half performance. With his offense standing still at times and the Eagles throwing double-teams at Kvak in the middle, the hosts eventually put together a 7-0 run early in the second quarter to take an 18-15 lead. They closed on a 7-2 stretch to take a 29-24 halftime advantage.
Barther’s stern words to his team at halftime paid off. Levis scored half his points in the third quarter, and assisted on buckets by Kvak and Johnson. The team nabbed four steals in the quarter, turning all four into transition layups. The Eagles were unable to counter.
“(Levis) came in and made some plays offensively,” Barther said. “I think in the second half, the first two or three possessions, we pounded the ball inside and I thought our big guy got seals and our guards threw it to him and he scored right away. Then (Levis) came in and opened things up for us by hitting outside shots.”
Dominic Zarzycki-Hall added five points and a team-high eight rebounds for the Titans, who shot 50% after their dominant second half. Connor Allomong, starting at point guard in place of a quarantining Niko Pappas, scored nine for the Eagles. Rini, Jacob Siegert and Colin Ladegaard led the team with four rebounds apiece.
Avon will next host North Olmsted on Friday at 7 p.m.
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