AVON LAKE — Nothing turns up the heat on a cold December night better than a good run.
Avon Lake took that to heart Thursday night in sprinting past Strongsville 70-60 in non-league action Thursday night.
Strongsville is a senior-laden team with height and speed, including powerful frontline players Omari Peek (6-foot-6 wing) and Shaun Csire (6-5 center). But midway through the third period the Shoremen, who never met a track meet they didn’t like, began to run the Mustangs ragged with their speed and youth.
“We focus on the tempo of the game in practice,” said Avon Lake senior guard Jordan Ball, who led all scorers with 19 points. “Getting into our play sets, don’t get overwhelmed by the pressure, we know they have a good team with Omari and 44 down there low (Csire), really good players, a lot of length. So we had to focus on little things. The way we run our plays.”
The Shoremen (5-2) transformed into the preferred version of themselves after a microscopically close first half in which both teams shot 42 percent from the field on identical 11-for-26 performances. Only a missed free throw and a 3-pointer versus a 2-pointer provided the Shoremen with their 31-29 lead.
But in the second half, Avon Lake fired up their running game to open a 12-point lead with 6:24 left in the game.
Avon Lake also brought the defense to take away most everything the Mustangs (1-7) do well. Even with their size, the Mustangs settled for 21 3-point attempts and shot just 40 percent from the field, while the Shoremen turned speed and pressure into fast-break layups and transition points to secure a 53-percent shooting night.
Avon Lake also sent the Mustangs to the foul line only nine times and handled the ball well with just seven turnovers, which limited Strongsville’s opportunities to forge a comeback.
“Our sophomores are playing great,” Ball said. “One senior, four sophomores, but they don’t play like sophomores. They play like seniors. Nick Marsh, Tanner Russell, Nate Sidloski, Creed Bologna, they’re veterans. They’re great players.”
Ball, who also had eight assists and five rebounds, got help from Marsh with 14 points and Russell with 13. Sidloski and Bologna hit the boards for nine and eight rebounds, respectively.
“Eventually this team is going to be a team that can play, but we talk about we want to play the way we want to play,” Smith said. “That if we want to play fast, they can’t stop us, also if we want to slow it down and run our stuff in half-court, they can’t stop us. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.”
The Mustangs’ underwhelming season record belies the fact that they’ve played a tough schedule that has included Lorain, Elyria, Brunswick and a two-point loss to Mentor. Strongsville’s lone win came against Avon.
“It’s not like they’re playing the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Smith said of the Mustangs. “And they’re right in those games as well. What I especially liked was that in the fourth quarter we started to really execute what we wanted to do offensively. They run that match-up zone — they were in it early. We did some things to hurt it and they went out of it and we were able to spread the floor with the guys we had out there.”
Contact Fred Steiner at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon Lake 70, Strongsville 60
STRONGSVILLE (60): Omari Peek 3-2-9, Tim Ruch 2-0-5, Bernie McGivern 5-0-11, Sami Farraj 0-2-2, Shaun Csire 6-2-15, Joe Lake 1-0-3, Jalen Garner 1-0-2, Kevin Lawler 2-0-4, Ali Awada 1-0-3, Jose Monterossa 1-0-3, Tre Massey 1-0-3. Totals 23-6-60.
AVON LAKE (70): Tanner Russell 5-0-13, Nate Sidloski 4-0-8, Jordan Ball 6-7-19, Nick Marsh 6-2-14, Creed Bologna 4-1-9, Cole Schraff 3-1-7, Andrew Butrey 0-0-0, Ryan Murtaugh 0-0-0, Dylan Marsha 0-0-0, Hunter Simons 0-0-0, Christian Perry 0-0-0. Totals 28-11-70.
Strongsville 10 19 11 20 — 60
Avon Lake 17 14 15 24 — 70
Three-point goals: Strongsville 8-21 (Peek, Ruch, McGivern, Csire, Lake, Awada, Monterossa, Massey), Avon Lake 3-9 (Russell 3). Field goals: Strongsville 23-57 (40 percent), Avon Lake 28-53 (53 percent). Free throws: Strongsville 6-9 (67 percent), Avon Lake 11-13 (85 percent). Rebounds: Strongsville 27 (Csire 8), Avon Lake 32 (Sidloski 9). Total fouls: Strongsville 18, Avon Lake 12. Turnovers: Strongsville 9, Avon Lake 7.
Junior varsity: Avon Lake, 56-49