Life is nothing like last season for eighth-year North Ridgeville coach Bryan Morgan’s team. The new-look Rangers are off to an 0-3 (0-1 Southwestern Conference) start after a 62-39 loss at rival Midview last Friday night.
The 2018-19 Rangers listed nine seniors on the 10-player varsity roster. This year’s team features just two seniors with the entire starting lineup of underclassmen. Three juniors, six sophomores and a freshman make up the balance of the roster.
“I love my basketball team,” Morgan said. “These guys come out and play as hard as they possibly can. They’re focused in practice. With the inexperience we have, we could’ve come in tonight and got beaten by (Midview) by 40 or 50, and we fought for a half and got chances in the second half. We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”
The first victory of the season has eluded the Rangers as they continue to figure out how to compete at the varsity level. The Middies (2-0, 1-0 SWC) turned a close first half into a second-half blowout, piecing together separate 15-4 scoring runs in the third and fourth quarters and forcing nine of the Rangers’ 10 turnovers after making some defensive changes at halftime.
Midview’s largest lead was 28 points with less than three minutes left when coach Jim Brabenec started removing his starters from the game. Senior post, Jonny Manning led all scorers with 17 points and 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Tyler Dawson scored 13 — all in the second half — and Jahkai Owens came off the bench to score 12.
The Middies’ offense improved from an ugly first half, shooting about 50% from the field and committing just three turnovers. The Middies opened the third quarter up 25-15 and immediately went on an 8-0 run thanks to a switch to a trapping half-court zone defense, coupled with some full-court pressure. The young Rangers couldn’t adjust.
“(Midview) just made us play basketball,” Morgan said. “They’ve got more experienced guys than we do, and we just couldn’t put the ball in the hole. (Midview’s) one of the best teams in our conference and we’re one of the most inexperienced. We’re going to get there, but it’s going to take some time.”
North Ridgeville shot 25% and was 5-for-25 from three-point distance, despite good ball movement that generated numerous open looks. The Rangers still managed to take a brief first-quarter lead and were down 11-10 early in the second, but foul trouble and Midview’s second-half dominance at both ends only added to the shooting woes.
“For the most part I thought we were making the right decisions (with passing),” Morgan said. “But when a shot doesn’t go in, that’s going to change a big part of the game. I thought that we had open looks, but (Midview) was making the right guys shoot them and it was just something that led to points in their end.”
Freshman Jake Boynar led the Rangers with 10 points and five rebounds before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter, while junior Nate Theus scored nine with four assists. Sophomore Dom Farago scored five and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
As Ranger fouls piled up after the second quarter, the Middies enjoyed a 19-9 free-throw disparity, and made 14 of those attempts. The Rangers made six.
“North Ridgeville kind of punched us in the mouth at the start,” Brabenec said. “We knew they would try to junk the game up and be physical with our guys. I thought we made some adjustments and came out in the second half and our guys really responded.”
North Ridgeville will continue to work through its growing pains Friday at 7 p.m. at home against Olmsted Falls in another SWC contest.
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