Things started well enough for the Rocky River boys basketball team.
The first quarter of the River Basketball Association Holiday Hoops Classic final ended with the Pirates and visiting Brunswick tied at 13-13. But then the game flipped in the Blue Devils’ favor.
Foul calls against the Pirates started to mount, their offense went cold and Blue Devils forward Brayden Hamilton caught fire in an eventual 71-40 loss.
“We got off to a pretty good start,” Pirates coach Mike Murray said. “It just seemed that as the game wore on, we wore down.”
Hamilton, a 6-foot-5 senior, drilled six 3-pointers for a game-high 32 points. He poured in 18 of in the second half as the scoring margin ballooned past 30 points. Fellow senior Zach Eyssen added 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds.
It was a bounceback effort for Hamilton, who missed his first nine shots in a close win over Avon Lake in the Blue Devils’ first round matchup on Dec. 28. After the championship win, he was named the tournament’s MVP.
“Once we let Hamilton get hot, he really got hot,” Murray said. “We let him step into a lot of threes tonight, and that was something we knew we couldn’t do. He plays so hard and does a nice job at both ends of the court. We wanted to crowd him more when he had it, but our kids were giving him a little too much space.”
When it was their turn to respond, the Pirates struggled to get shots to fall. After an efficient first quarter, they made 11 shots during the game’s final 24 minutes and finished a chilly 30% from the field. The Blue Devils were also a wall defensively, forcing 10 turnovers and winning the rebounding battle 33-26.
While the Pirates’ turnover total wasn’t high, the Blue Devils did their part to keep ball handlers in front of them and not allow many open looks.
“That was one of the better second halves we’ve played all year,” Brunswick coach Joe Mackey said. “We played old-school Brunswick defense. We locked up. We didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare. We had an hour shootaround today to put in the game plan, but I thought our kids did a real nice job of executing.”
The goal was to limit the Pirates’ frontcourt of senior Robby Lang and junior Will DeClerck, who saw double-teams throughout the afternoon. Lang finished with a team-high 12 points, and DeClerck 11. Senior guard Braedon Spies had nine.
In the second and third quarters, 12 foul calls plagued the Pirates and gave the Blue Devils a 14-0 advantage in free throw attempts during that 16-minute stretch. The Blue Devils finished 14-of-18 from the line, while the Pirates shot 5-8.
“I think it was a physical, back-and-forth game, but it seemed like that (free throw disparity) wore on us,” Murray said. “We weren’t able to get our offense going. It affected us on both ends of the court. We looked a little slow.”
In the opening round of the two-day home tournament, the Pirates beat Padua 55-50.
Rocky River will host Elyria Catholic on Friday at 7:30 p.m. in a Great Lakes Conference West Division matchup.
Shoremen hang on
The RBA Holiday Hoops Classic consolation game on Dec. 29 proved to be a close contest as Avon Lake staved off a charging Padua 54-52.
The Shoremen trailed for most of the first half and were down 44-43 midway through the fourth quarter, but a three-point play by junior Matthew Stuewe put them ahead by a basket with 5:13 left. His score with 36 seconds remaining proved to be the difference-maker, upping the Shoremen lead to 54-50.
Stuewe paced the Shoremen (3-4) with 15 points and senior Mitch Schillinger added 12. Defensively, they forced the Bruins (3-4) into 21 turnovers.
“That’s the first one we’ve gotten to go our way,” Shoremen coach Eric Smith said. “We’ve lost a couple close ones early on. We’re 3-4, but I think we’re a pretty good 3-4 basketball team. Going into the new year I’m happy with where things are at. We’ve got to clean some things up, but a win’s a win, and it came on a back-to-back night against a quality opponent.”
Next up for the team is a Southwestern Conference showdown with first-place Olmsted Falls on Friday at 7 p.m.
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