Elyria went 10-12 last year and 4-10 in the grueling Greater Cleveland Conference. It was difficult to endure for the Pioneers, but not disappointing.
The Pioneers went 6-2 in non-conference play, beating Vermilion and falling to Keystone on a wild sequence at the buzzer. But they struggled in the GCC, though five of their losses were by seven points or fewer.
Fast forward to this season and please repeat after us: It’s early. And the GCC is grueling again. But Elyria coach Brett Larrick said his team is better for having gone through last year’s trials.
“We have a group that really works hard together and really plays hard,” Larrick said. “Our senior leaders are the ones that have really been good so far getting us ready every day, working every day, and doing things the right way.”
How good was the GCC last year? Larrick said five GCC teams played in district finals, including Strongsville — a team Elyria beat twice in the regular season and which didn’t win a conference game; the Mustangs beat the Pioneers by 19 on their way to that district final.
This year, the Pioneers have started well again, though they beat up on a short-handed North Ridgeville team and a Westlake group that will struggle in the Southwestern Conference. Elyria, though, followed those up with a strong showing against state finalist Solon in a 76-72 loss, and beat Midview by 14.
Elyria’s been led by guards Caleb Rogers (20 points per game) and MarSaun Robinson (16 points per game), and Comets coach Tony DeCesare complimented the Pioneers’ guards after the teams’ game last week: “You have a backcourt like that, it should be a fun season for those guys.”
Rogers and Robinson combined for 46 against Solon.
“We played really hard and battled Solon,” Larrick said. “We have no choice but to play hard every night in our league and non-conference. We must make sure we play the right way, and our guys are playing hard and fast. We’re headed in the right direction.”
Elyria’s schedule never relents, with games this week against Medina and Bay, before a pre-Christmas tilt with Strongsville and a Lorain County Holiday Classic matchup with another Division I state semifinalist, Lorain.
In addition to Rogers and Robinson, the Pioneers have leaned on the leadership of Will Waddell and Josiah Grantham, along with Aiden Carter’s versatility. That trio combined for 24 against Solon, which scored the first 11 points of the game — but Elyria’s experienced players kept the team in it.
“When adversity comes, which it will, they have to lean on each other and trust each other,” Larrick said. “We will have to lean on that leadership this year as we will battle some tough games. That happens in our league. The key test will be how we bounce back after those, and I trust our guys that we will.”
Avon, Open Door team up on special night
Open Door and Avon will play for the first time in the schools’ history Saturday, and it’ll be a special night: The schools will honor Tedd Wiley, who died of cancer in January and who coached Open Door’s eighth-grade team and Avon’s ninth-grade team.
Maxx Wiley, Tedd’s son, graduated from Open Door in the spring and played for the Patriots last year; Maxx’s brothers, Mason (junior) and Mitchell (freshman) are now in the program.
The game, dubbed the Wiley Strong Benefit Classic, already is sold out; proceeds from the game will be used to make a donation to the American Cancer Society in the names of Tedd Wiley and Ron Thomas, who died in March from brain cancer. Thomas was the Patriots’ longtime scorekeeper, and had two sons that played for Wright.