NORTH RIDGEVILLE — There is no truth to the rumor that Proctor Silex is coming here to look for tips on pressure cooking, although there may be much to learn from the North Ridgeville Rangers.
The Rangers used their high-pressure, trapping defense to survive the Westlake Demons 66-58 in overtime in Southwestern Conference play Tuesday night.
The Rangers’ suffocating press and sideline-to-sideline defense is the fuel injector that powers the engine of their offensive attack. That pressure, combined with the leadership of dynamic guards M.J. Smith and Jeremy Sanchez, proved too much for a rough and rugged Westlake (4-7, 3-4 SWC) to overcome.
Smith, who led all scorers with 25 points, is known to SWC fans as a deadeye sharpshooter whose 3-point range begins around the entrance to the gymnasium. The 5-foot-11 senior has added powerful baseline drives and an elegant passing game to his skill set.
“We’ve told M.J. that he can’t be just a shooter,” Rangers coach Bryan Morgan said, “because it’s too easy to stop a shooter. He’s really picked up his game.”
Sanchez, who had 14 points, was the point of the defense that forced Westlake into 24 turnovers. He also had six of the Rangers’ 15 steals.
It was no cake walk for North Ridgeville (7-2, 4-1 SWC), as Westlake came into the Rangers’ snazzy new digs and matched them blow for blow, taking a 24-21 lead into halftime.
In the past the third period was when Ridgeville routinely folded up the tent and went home, but this is a new North Ridgeville. These Rangers thrive on adversity, so they roared out of the locker room to score as many points in the third as they did all first half (21).
They did it on their terms, pressing and contesting all over the floor. At one point in the third they turned over Westlake on four consecutive possessions.
They transformed those miscues into quick transition points and easy layups, and despite being outrebounded for the game stretched the lead to eight points.
“I guarantee if you look at the film, Mikey Richmond has a say in all four of those,” Morgan said. “I thought he brought the energy for us in the second half. He’s a spurt guy, he’s not going to be able to do it for the entire game, but he did it tonight for that stretch at the start of the third.”
While many teams have withered and collapsed under the Ridgeville pressure, these Demons, an experienced team with eight seniors, are made of sterner stuff. Down by four after the third period and having been rocked throughout it, Westlake responded by charging back in the fourth, led by seniors Tim Waite and Tommy Lazevnick, who scored a team-high 20, and gritty junior forward Anthony Rego.
“That’s Shawn,” Morgan said of Westlake coach Shawn Hood. “His teams always play like that, tough and to their full ability. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were to run off six or seven wins in a row.”
The Demons limited North Ridgeville to eight points and when Lazevnick drilled a 3-pointer at the 2:37 mark, Westlake was all the way back at 48-48. With under 30 seconds left and having taken a 50-48 lead, the Demons were victimized one last time when Smith stole the ball in the backcourt.
After timeouts were called, the Rangers inbounded with nine seconds left and deftly worked the ball to Sanchez for a layup at the buzzer and a trip to overtime.
The Rangers came out of regulation just like they did the first half and ratcheted up the pressure again. They took the bonus session 16-8 with Smith hitting five of six free throws and junior center Zach Perkins grabbing a clutch three of his five rebounds. Ridgeville hit two big threes in overtime and turned over Westlake five times in the extra four minutes.
Contact Fred Steiner at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Ridgeville 66, Westlake 58
WESTLAKE (58): Neil McGrogan 1-0-2, Billy Blood 4-2-10, Anthony Rego 5-2-12, Tommy Lazevnick 8-1-20, Tim Waite 3-3-9, Carter Bednar 0-0-0, Justin Garcia 0-0-0, Steven Brewer 2-1-5, Vince McGervey 0-0-0. Totals 23-9-58.
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (66): M.J. Smith 8-7-25, Scotti Millgard 1-2-5, Jeremy Sanchez 7-0-14, Mikey Richmond 0-2-2, Tyler Cadle 4-2-10, Tyler Richmond 0-0-0, Jason Vrba 0-0-0, Zach Perkins 3-1-7, Cole Payne 1-0-3. Totals 24-14-66.
Westlake 10 14 13 13 8 — 58
North Ridgeville 9 12 21 8 16 — 66
Three-point goals: Westlake 3-6 (Lazevnick 3), North Ridgeville 4-10 (Smith 2, Millgard, Payne). Field goals: Westlake 23-51 (45 percent), North Ridgeville 24-61 (40 percent). Free throws: Westlake 9-15 (60 percent), North Ridgeville 14-19 (74 percent). Rebounds: Westlake 36 (Rego 8), North Ridgeville 28 (Cadle 8). Total fouls: Westlake 19, North Ridgeville 16. Turnovers: Westlake 24, North Ridgeville 10.
Junior varsity: North Ridgeville, 49-38.