AVON — While a gusty single-digit wind chill outside Avon High School made it feel more like home for Yukon Cornelius and friends, it was blazing hot inside the gym Tuesday night.
But it was Avon Lake feeling the most comfortable thanks to a 66-55 win that spoiled the Eagles’ season debut.
Avon, which got a late start to the season due to its long run in the football playoffs, came out like a house afire behind junior guard Ryan Maloy, who dropped three-point shots like snowflakes in the first half.
He started a 7-1 game-opening run for Avon that put the home team on the way to a 16-8 first-quarter lead.
Maloy’s up-tempo play and bull’s-eye shooting had the Shoremen on their heels.
“The tale was the first four-and-a-half minutes of the game, when we lost our minds,” Avon Lake coach Eric Smith said. “We just stopped trying to do anything that we wanted to try to do. Maloy came out, hit a ton of shots because he’s a heckuva player. And when he was hitting those shots we lost our identity for about four or five minutes.
“If you come and watch us play 22 games you’re gonna see us play 2-3 zone a handful of times, if that, but we had to go to it just to try and calm us down because we losy all of our discipline defensively.”
But while Maloy was leading all scorers with 36 points, including going 7-of-14 from behind the 3-point arc, the Shoremen were pulling a tortoise and the hare act on Avon. As the Eagles pushed tempo and rode Maloy, Avon Lake got to the free throw line by driving the paint and emphasizing the little things on both ends of the court.
The Shoremen (2-1, 2-0 Southwestern Conference) converted on 60 percent of their 45 trips to the foul line and hit a robust 51 percent from the field. They only took as many threes as a team as Maloy made (seven).
“All of a sudden we just settled down and from about two minutes left to go in the first quarter into the second quarter and the rest of the game we did a very good job of controlling the pace of the game,” Smith said. “Getting run-outs when we had them, and then going off that and getting to the ball first and taking shots when we had them.”
The game featured hard, physical play and a storm of emotion on and off the court. There were 51 fouls called, 71 free throws shot, multiple technical fouls whistled, two ejections and three players fouling out. Through it all, perhaps surprisingly, the number of turnovers by both teams remained relatively low for such a tense struggle.
“There was ‘technical fest’ for a little while,” Avon coach Kevin Sapara said. “That’s not what were about. I’m sure that’s not what they are about. But when you get down in that rivalry and the emotion, in a young season with young kids, sometimes that can overcome you. But we have to do a better job of staying composed. We’ve got a lot to learn from and build upon. But, again, I was really happy with about three quarters of it.”
Avon Lake got a balanced attack led by senior point guard Jordan Ball (12 points), who got the Shoremen back into their style and distributed the ball to a cadre of young players who rose to the rivalry. Chief among them was Nate Sidloski, who had a team-leading 20 points and 13 rebounds.
“The young guys stepped up,” Smith said. “Nate Sidloski had a great game. Tanner Russell played well. Creed Bologna off the bench, all three of those guys are sophomores. Nick Vittardi, he’s a junior, he came off the bench and hit a huge three for us in the third quarter just to keep us in it and then he went out there and defended, he rebounded and he ran the offense and no one is going to talk about it because he had three points and that’s it.
“But he’s an unsung hero because he stepped in there when we needed it and played big minutes.”
Contact Fred Steiner at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon Lake 66, Avon 55
AVON LAKE (66): Tanner Russell 3-2-8, Cole Schraff 1-1-3, Nate Sidloski 4-8-20, Jordan Ball 3-6-12, Nick Marsh 2-1-5, Andrew Butrey 0-6-6, Creed Bologna 3-3-9, Nick Vittardi 1-0-3. Totals 17-27-66.
AVON (55): Ryan Malloy 9-11-36, Jake Parker 2-0-6, Brandon Doehne 0-0-0, Dean Emerine 2-1-6, Max Torbert 1-1-3, Mark Steinmetz 0-1-1, Ronier Barrett-Reed 0-0-0, Niko Pappas 0-0-0, Alex Roser 0-0-0, Dominick Rini 1-1-3. Totals 15-15-55.
Avon Lake 8 20 21 17 — 66
Avon 16 15 15 9 — 55
Three-point goals: Avon Lake 3-7 (Sidloski 4, Vittardi), Avon 10-25 (Malloy 7, Parker 2, Emerine). Field goals: Avon Lake 18-35 (51 percent), Avon Lake 15-50 (30 percent). Free throws: Avon Lake 27-45 (60 percent), Avon 15-26 (58 percent). Rebounds: Avon Lake 28 (Sidloski 13), Avon 32 (Emerine 7). Total fouls: Avon Lake 21, Avon 30. Turnovers: Avon Lake 12, Avon 14.
Junior varsity: Avon Lake, 39-26