NORTH OLMSTED -- For awhile, it looked as if the opening tip would be the key turning point of North Ridgeville’s 91-69 Southwestern Conference win over North Olmsted on Tuesday night.
That’s because the Rangers (7-3, 4-2 SWC) rode a 10-2 opening run to a hefty 25-12 lead after one quarter, using pressure defense and high-speed offense to nearly run the Eagles out of their own gym.
However, in the second period, North Olmsted (1-9, 0-6) flipped the switch and reversed the results, bouncing back to within 42-38 at halftime.
The young Ridgeville team seemed to have no answer for the Eagles’ bench led by senior Kevin Kidd, who had six of his team-high 18 points, four rebounds and two blocks all in that turnaround second period.
“Old North Ridgeville, we would have crumbled down there, a four-point game. I think it was 43-40 at one point,” Rangers coach Bryan Morgan said. “Some guys made some plays. Jason Vrba had a nice charge on the sideline that was a game-changer. Cole Payne came in and gave us energy.
“My favorite play of the game was his tip at half-court, where he chased it all the way down to the baseline and saved it for Jeremy (Sanchez) to get that layup. That’s unselfish basketball and it’s great to see.”
Not only did the Rangers return the switch to the North Ridgeville position, they broke the knob off, putting away North Olmsted in a 49-31 second half. Sanchez led all scorers with 20 points while M.J. Smith had 17, Scotti Millgard 16 and Vrba 13.
Overall, the Rangers shot a comfy 54 percent, but most importantly connected on 11 of 19 3-pointers, which often came as momentum breakers. The Ridgeville pressure limited the Eagles to only 27 percent on threes and forced 18 turnovers, and its fast-breaking transitions drove North Olmsted into foul trouble.
“I went in and challenged them at halftime that they needed to start playing like a conference championship team,” Morgan said. “And they came out and made that effort in the second half. I’ve said all the time that if we don’t play hard, anybody in our conference can beat us.”
The Rangers hit the foul line often. North Ridgeville made 39 trips on 26 North Olmsted fouls. Though North Ridgeville made only 56 percent of those shots, the sheer number kept the Rangers’ lead above 16 points for the majority of the second half.
“In the second half the difference was energy, especially in our press, to be able to get back and get the ball,” Morgan said. “We knew after watching film a bit that they were going to struggle to score in transition a little, so we just wanted to make it a full-court game.”
The Rangers, right in the thick of the SWC race, continue league play Friday at Avon.
“I definitely think that, looking at the season, we thought to be after 10 games with seven wins would be us playing a little better than what we are capable of,” Morgan said. “But it has come to these guys who step on the floor and play hard. When they do that they give us the chance to stay in games and win games.”
Contact Fred Steiner at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
North Ridgeville 91, North Olmsted 69
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (91): M.J. Smith 5-4-17, Mikey Richmond 2-3-7, Jeremy Sanchez 6-7-20, Scotti Millgard 4-4-16, Tyler Cadle 3-0-6, Cole Payne 1-1-3, Jason Vrba 4-2-13, Zach Perkins 4-0-8, Tyler Richmond 0-1-1, Josh Harp 0-0-0, Noah Bayer 0-0-0, Trent Root 0-0-0. Totals 29-22-91.
NORTH OLMSTED (69): Jack Kelly 8-0-17, Jon Kramer 0-0-0, Ben Lima 1-0-2, Darren Anders 1-0-2, Jared Strong 6-0-13, Sean Elbin 2-1-5, Sam Bring 1-2-5, Sean Rogers 1-1-3, Kevin Kidd 7-2-18, Anthony Novak 1-0-2, Jarret Wonders 1-0-2, Zach Williams 0-0-0, Ilia Aleksic 0-0-0. Totals 29-6-69.
North Ridgeville 25 17 25 24 — 91
North Olmsted 12 26 11 20 — 69
Three-point goals: North Ridgeville 11-19 (Millgard 4, Smith 3, Vrba 3, Sanchez), North Olmsted 5-18 (Kidd 2, Kelly, Strong, Bring); Field goals: North Ridgeville 29-54 (54 percent), North Olmsted 29-59 (49 percent); Free throws: North Ridgeville 22-39 (56 percent), North Olmsted 6-12 (50 percent); Rebounds: North Ridgeville 36 (Sanchez 7, Cadle 7), North Olmsted 27 (Kidd 5); Total fouls: North Ridgeville 14, North Olmsted 26; Turnovers: North Ridgeville 17, North Olmsted 18.
Junior varsity: North Ridgeville, 62-34