Avon Lake guard Tanner Russell scored a game-high 22 points and the team’s seniors combined for 51 points, 18 rebounds and 14 assists in a 63-59 victory over host North Ridgeville, the Shoremen’s fifth in their last six games.
“In this league, it’s always good getting a win on the road,” Shoremen coach Eric Smith said. “In this league, there’s no such thing as an easy win. Every team is well-coached, and (North Ridgeville) came out with a great gameplan.”
With seven games left in the regular season, the Shoremen (10-5, 9-3 Southwestern Conference) maintained their second-place standing in the league, just behind Midview (13-2, 11-2 SWC). They did so by making extra passes to create open shots, grabbing key rebounds and remaining calm as the North Ridgeville gym got increasingly loud in the second half.
“There’s no panic in this group, and you could see it down the stretch,” Smith said. “They’d make a play, we’d make a play. Our guys didn’t come down, they didn’t rush anything and I think we got good shots and we knocked them down. It’s what you expect a veteran team to do.”
Down 52-51 midway through the fourth quarter, seniors Nick Marsh and Hunter Simons scored on back-to-back possessions to put the Shoremen ahead, 55-52. With 3:30 left, senior guard Ryan Shinko (nine points, three assists) buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to make it 58-54. After the Rangers made it a one-point game with two minutes left, the Shoremen used a patient attack to find Russell in the right corner, where he hit a 3-pointer for a 61-57 lead.
Avon Lake senior point guard Cristian Perry (seven points, three assists), was fouled to stop the clock with 12.9 seconds left, and made two free throws to seal the victory. On the Rangers’ final possession, Perry partially blocked Jake Boynar’s last-second 3-point attempt.
It wasn’t a memorable night for the Shoremen defensively, as the Rangers (3-14, 2-11 SWC) attacked them inside repeatedly with good effect, but a road win in a tournament atmosphere made for a rosy outlook.
“Any conference game is a hard one, anyone can come out and win,” Russell said. “Coming out here in that atmosphere, they were loud in the second half, and it’s good to get a win.”
Senior Nate Sidloski and junior Nate Murtaugh each scored eight points for the Shoremen. Sidloski added a team-high seven rebounds. All nine players who saw the court scored and it was needed after they went into halftime down 32-31.
Overall, there were 11 lead changes as the teams battled each other to the end. After a back-and-forth first half, the Shoremen came out scorching in the third, using a 13-2 run to go up 44-34, the largest lead of the game for either team. The Rangers clawed back after a timeout, using a 12-3 stretch to pull to 47-46 and trailed 51-49 heading into the fourth.
The Rangers got the four-quarter effort they’d been craving all season, with four players scoring in double figures. Junior forward Caden Masterson led the way with a season-high 18 points and four rebounds. Nate Theus scored 13, Dom Farago had 12 and Bryce Neumann added 10 in the loss.
“The second half had a feel to it like games of the past,” Rangers coach Bryan Morgan said. “This is the first four-quarter performance we’ve been able to put together, and we’re four points away from beating the second-best team in the conference. For me, there was a lot to take away and tell the kids, if you play like that we’ll win another game down the stretch.”
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