PARMA — Coming off the holiday season and a long layoff, it was easy to predict a bit of rust for Avon Lake when it faced Normandy on the road Tuesday night.
Unfortunately for the Shoremen, they could never shake off the sluggish start as they fell to the Invaders 58-51 in non-conference action.
The loss dropped Avon Lake to 5-3 overall (3-1 in the Southwestern Conference).
“Everything I was afraid of coming into this game after a long break materialized,” Avon Lake coach Eric Smith said. “We came out here and we played flat, emotionless basketball and I take the blame for that.”
Avon Lake led 24-23 after a putback from Nate Sidloski late in the second quarter, but Normandy’s Milan Markovic scored on a runner as time expired in the first half to give Normandy a 25-24 advantage.
The Shoreman never took the lead again.
“We fought in the second half and got the deficit to one a couple times but we couldn’t get back on top,” Smith said. “Give Normandy credit, they played physical and took advantage of their opportunities.”
Normandy pushed its lead to nine at 38-29 and looked to be pulling away midway through the third quarter.
Avon Lake responded though, going on a 7-0 run to get back in the game.
A layup by Jordan Ball followed by a deep 3-pointer from Tanner Russell brought the Shoremen within one at 44-43 early in the fourth quarter.
“We tried to get back and make some runs but they just made the plays to take back the momentum,” Ball said. “They are well-coached and did a good job of making defensive adjustments throughout the game.”
The teams traded blows throughout the fourth quarter but Normandy found ways to stay on top.
The Invaders extended their lead to 50-45 when Markovic knocked down a jumper at the two-minute mark.
Normandy iced the game from there, hitting six straight free throws. The Invaders shot 16-of-18 from the free throw line overall.
“I thought we really settled in and played well defensively starting in the second quarter,” Normandy coach Tim Schmotzer said. “Making our free throws was key and we were able to pick up a win against a good program in Avon Lake.”
Both teams started the game cold from the floor, shooting a combined 1-of-11.
Ball heated up midway through the first quarter and finished it on a tear. The senior point guard scored eight straight points for Avon Lake and finished the quarter with 12 of his team-high 19 points.
“I was just trying to go with the flow and take what they were giving me out there” Ball said. “They played good help-side defense and jumped to the ball to try and slow me down.”
The Shoremen left points at the free throw line, shooting just 10-of-20.
Contact Paul Williams at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.