OLMSTED FALLS — A fourth-quarter rally was not enough to erase a bad first half for North Ridgeville on Tuesday night.
Olmsted Falls used a strong press to build a lead and then withstood the Rangers’ rally in the fourth, holding on for a 67-63 Southwestern Conference victory at Olmsted Fallsl.
It was the first loss in conference play for the Rangers (4-2, 3-1). Olmsted Falls matched North Ridgeville’s SWC mark and improved to 4-1 overall.
“I was extremely proud of the effort from my team tonight,” said Rangers coach Bryan Morgan, whose team cut a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to one and had a chance to tie in the waning seconds.
“That’s a good Olmsted Falls team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, and we made a lot of mistakes in the first half. All of a sudden we were getting to some loose balls we weren’t getting to and battled back. I can’t say enough about these guys and what they gave me.”
North Ridgeville struggled against Olmsted Falls’ press to the tune of 20 first-half turnovers. The Bulldogs weren’t much better, at least in the first quarter when they turned the ball over nine times.
The second quarter, however, was a different story. Olmsted Falls committed just four turnovers to North Ridgeville’s eight in building a six-point halftime lead.
“They’re quick,” said North Ridgeville senior M.J. Smith, who led all scorers with 25 points. “They made us go at their pace and just rushed us. We rushed, panicked and turned the ball over. We weren’t smart with it, we weren’t calm and they got the best of us in that one.”
Olmsted Falls pushed the lead to eight by the end of the third and opened the fourth with a pair of free throws and a layup in the first 20 seconds — all coming from Eric Hanna, who stole the inbounds pass right after draining two free throws.
Smith answered with a 3-pointer and the Ridgeville defense turned up the heat, capitalizing on a couple of turnovers to mount a small run — punctuated by Scoti Millgard’s 3-pointer to cut it to 58-54.
But during the shot, Millgard fell to the floor because an Olmsted Falls player was playing tight defense. A moment later, while he was still on the floor, he was whistled for an intentional foul.
“(The official) told me I grabbed him on the way down,” Millgard said. “But on the shot he fouled me and I fell on the ground and when I tried to get up he stepped on my arm and fell on his own.”
Hanna split the free throws and on the ensuing possession Gavin Dietrich pushed the lead back to seven with a layup. The Rangers responded with back-to-back layups to pull within three and after Olmsted Falls split a pair of free throws, Millgard drained another three to make it 62-61 with 36.9 seconds left.
Braden Galaska connected on two free throws. North Ridgeville ran a nice play to get Smith open in the corner, but his shot was partially blocked by Galaska and the Bulldogs took care of business at the free throw line to ice the game.
“We just have to learn from this,” Smith said. “We’ll watch the film, watch our mistakes and learn the press because that’s the main thing that killed us in the first half.”
Olmsted Falls 67, North Ridgeville 63
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (63): Jeremy Sanchez 6-3-15, Scoti Millgard 3-0-8, Zach Perkins 0-2-2, M.J. Smith 9-3-25, Mikey Richmond 2-0-4, Jason Vrba 1-1-3, Tyler Cadle 2-0-4, Cole Payne 1-0-2. Totals 24-9-63.
OLMSTED FALLS (67): Tom Lloyd 5-2-11, Braden Galaska 3-8-15, Gavin Dietrich 5-2-12, Eric Hanna 2-5-12, Chuck Backus 1-0-2, Michael Fritz 1-0-5, Ryan Higginbotham 3-4-10, Austin Stefan 0-0-0. Totals 22-19-67.
North Ridgeville 19 9 16 19 — 63
Olmsted Falls 18 18 16 15 — 67
Three-point goals: North Ridgeville 6-16 (Smith 4, Millgard 2), Olmsted Falls 4-17 (Hanna, Lloyd, Galaska, Fritz). Field goals: North Ridgeville 24-48 (50 percent), Olmsted Falls 22-46 (48 percent). Free throws: North Ridgeville 9-13 (69 percent), Olmsted Falls 19-26 (73 percent). Rebounds: North Ridgeville 20 (Cadle 6), Olmsted Falls 18 (Dietrich 8). Total fouls: North Ridgeville 19, Olmsted Falls 15. Turnovers: North Ridgeville 22, Olmsted Falls 21
Junior varsity: North Ridgeville, 57-54