SOLON -- Asked if it was any consolation that Solon would do what it did to Elyria on Friday night to a lot of other teams, Pioneers coach Brett Larrick was succinct.
“No,” he said with a wry smile.
Make no mistake, though: Elyria won’t be the last team the Comets gang up on. One of the best teams in Northeast Ohio, Solon forced a bunch of turnovers, made 16 3-pointers and beat up on the young Pioneers in a 95-70 win in the Greater Cleveland Conference opener for both teams.
Solon (3-0, 1-0) has beaten three typically strong teams -- Beachwood, Twinsburg and the Pioneers -- by an average of 30 points. The Comets, a district finalist last year, twice had Elyria down by 20 points in the teams’ matchups a year ago, only to lose both games.
That was then.
The Pioneers (2-1, 0-1) lost four starters, returning only Justin Koepp, and couldn’t keep pace Friday. The Comets use a full-court press in which they trap the first pass. They essentially play five guards, whose quick hands and speed allowed them to force Elyria into nine first-quarter turnovers.
The Pioneers tried to stick around, with Josiah Grantham and Caleb Rogers answering a first-quarter Solon run with buckets. But the Pioneers mustered just four second-quarter points. In all, Elyria committed 12 turnovers in the first half, leading to 12 Comets points.
“They’ve been building to this for a number of years now,” Larrick said. “We weren’t ready, and I think we were a little intimidated. But this is our league. We are learning -- and we better because we play a lot of really good teams.”
When Solon isn’t creating turnovers to generate easy buckets, they’re spreading the floor in the half-court and taking advantage of the speed of likely All-Ohio guards Sincere Carry (committed to West Liberty) and Mike Bekelja (Fairmont State). Carry is the driver, and if the defense collapses, he kicks to Bekelja and others on the arc.
Carry shot 8-of-12 from the field for 20 points, while Bekelja was 7-of-12 with six 3-pointers.
“We try to get games in the 90s,” Solon coach Tony DeCesare said. “We don’t really have the size to play a true half-court game, so we let our guards get to the rim and surround them with shooters. That helps us go on runs and wear teams down mentally and physically.”
The Comets attempted a staggering 44 threes, reminiscent of the current NBA trend of threes, layups and nothing in between. Solon shot 51 percent (37-of-72) and Brandon Brown (16 points) and David Marbury (10) joined Bekelja and Carry in double figures.
Koepp led Elyria with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while Roman Carter added 17 and Deviian Williams 11.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Solon 95, Elyria 70
ELYRIA (70): MarSaun Robinson 1-0-3, Caleb Rogers 3-0-6, Josh Ball 2-0-5, Deviian Williams 5-0-11, Roman Carter 6-2-17, William Waddell 3-0-6, Justin Koepp 9-3-22. Totals 29-5-70.
SOLON (95): Mike Bekelja 7-3-23, Ryan Bergen 3-0-8, Sincere Carry 8-2-20, Justin Lumpkin 2-0-5, Trent Williams 4-0-10, David Marbury 5-0-10, Brandon Brown 7-0-16, Jalen Hardy 1-0-3. Totals 37-5-95.
Elyria 12 4 22 32 -- 70
Solon 22 21 31 21 — 95
Three-point goals: Elyria 7-23 (Robinson, Ball, Williams, Carter 3, Koepp), Solon 16-44 (Bekelja 6, Bergen 2, Carry 2, Lumpkin, Williams 2, Brown 2, Hardy). Field goals: Elyria 29-63 (46 percent), Solon 37-72 (51 percent). Free throws: Elyria 5-6 (83 percent), Solon 5-6 (83 percent). Rebounds: Elyria 38 (Koepp 13), Solon 29 (Bekelja, Carry 6). Total fouls: Elyria 2, Solon 9. Turnovers: Elyria 18, Solon 8.
Junior varsity: Solon, 59-53