ELYRIA — Coaches never like to lose basketball games but if there is such a thing as a good loss, it may have been the one pinned on Lorain in the Play-by-Play Classic at a jam-packed Elyria Catholic Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.
“It makes you better,” Titans coach John Rositano said following an 82-75 loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. “You don’t get better by beating teams by 30, 40 points. You just don’t.”
The Titans, a Final Four team a year ago with visions of another deep tournament run, had their winning streak snapped at nine games by the defending Division II state champion Irish (8-2). It was one of seven games played at the Coliseum on Sunday after four others Saturday, featuring some of the best teams in Northeast Ohio.
“This was a good match up for us,” St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce said. “They presented a different problem and a different style of play. That’s what you always want.”
LeBron James played for Joyce at SVSM.
“It was pretty high-level basketball there,” Rositano said. “We got exposed in one area that we’ve been preaching. We just got beat on the offensive glass, especially the first half and a couple times the second half.”
When two evenly-matched teams go at each other, the difference can be slim. St. Vincent-St. Mary’s nine-point run at the end of the first half may have been the decider. Devon Grant, who led all scorers with 34 points for Lorain, had just hit a pull-up jumper in the lane for a 27-25 lead with 3:34 left in the half. The Titans didn’t score again until the third quarter.
“The run at the end (of the half), we had been very impatient offensively,” Joyce said. “(Lorain) sped us up. That last timeout before the half, we talked about just being a little more disciplined, moving the ball from side to side, instead of taking that quick shot. That kind of gave us momentum going into halftime.”
“That hurt us a little bit but we’ve come back before,” Rositano said. “We just couldn’t rebound consistently. You can get away with that against average-to-good teams but elite teams, you ain’t going to get away with it. They’ll make you pay for every second-, third- chance shots.”
The Irish outrebounded Lorain 40-29. Until Sunday, Lorain had beaten every team on its schedule by at least eight points, with seven of nine wins coming by 20 points or more.
“Unfortunately, you take shortcuts and you get into bad habits when you beat teams like that,” Rositano said. “Then when you get in a game like this, those little shortcuts and bad habits, like lack of rebounding on the defensive end, come back to hurt you.”
Another sore spot for Lorain was free throw shooting. SVSM was 16-of-18 at the foul line and nine of 10 in the fourth quarter. The Titans were 21-of-30 for the game, but it included Grant hitting all 11 of his attempts.
“I tell my guys all the time, the game is still about layups and free throws,” Joyce said. “If you can make layups and make free throws, you can win.”
Lorain trailed 67-51 with 4:22 left to play when it made one final run that nearly pulled it out. The Titans, fueled by the partisan crowd, put on the pressure defense, forcing five late turnovers and pulling to within 74-71 with just over a minute left. However, the Irish hit four consecutive free throws and came up with a couple late layups for the final margin of victory.
“We turned it on at the end,” Aaron Whitehead said. “With about four minutes left, we just started playing harder. We wanted to win. We knew we were better than what we were playing.”
Grant hopes the team learned something from the loss.
“We have to learn to take the same energy that we brought the last few minutes for the whole game,” he said. “We were just stuck in a little bit of mud. We just had to get ourselves out of it as a team.”
“They stretched us,” Joyce said. “I thought our guys played very well in basically a hostile environment. The whole city of Lorain seemed like it was here.”
St.Vincent-St.Mary 82, Lorain 75
SVSM (82): Seth Wilson 5-1-14, Chris Painter 9-3-22, Luden McDay 7-6-21, Malaki Branham 3-2-8, Keyshawn Jones 1-0-2, Darius Cone 1-0-2, Marcus Johnson 2-0-5, Isaiah Ingol 1-2-5, Jordan Addison 0-2-2. Totals 29-16-82.
LORAIN (75): Jordan Jackson 3-2-10, Devon Grant 10-11-34, Deonte Benejan 3-0-7, Kam Davis 0-0-0, Aiden Brown 2-0-4, Taevon Pierre-Louis 4-6-14, Aaron Whitehead 2-2-6. Totals 24-21-75.
SVSM 16 18 20 28 —82
Lorain 18 9 16 32 —75
Three-point goals: SVSM 8-14 (Wilson 3, Painter 2, McDay, Johnson, Ingol). Lorain 6-16 (Grant 3, Jackson 2, Benejan). Field goals: SVSM 29-61 (47.5 percent), Lorain 24-52 (46 percent). Free throws: SVSM 16-18 (88 percent), Lorain 21-30 (70 percent). Rebounds: SVSM 40 (Johnson 10), Lorain 29 (Grant 12). Turnovers: SVSM 15, Lorain 11. Fouls: SVSM 23, Lorain 20. Fouled Out: Whitehead.