ELYRIA — Don’t mess with the sleeping giant.
That might be the lesson Avon takes away from its district semifinal loss Wednesday to state-ranked and top-seeded Lorain. The Titans thumped the Eagles 96-50 to advance to Saturday’s final at the Elyria Catholic Coliseum.
Fourth-ranked Lorain (23-1) will take on tonight’s Olmsted Falls-Lakewood winner for the right to advance to Akron and the Sweet 16. Avon finished 17-8.
Avon hung tough with Lorain a couple of weeks ago before losing 66-52. Apparently the close win didn’t sit well with the talented Titans.
“They were not happy with the way they played the last time over at Avon,” Lorain coach John Rositano said. “They took it as a personal affront. I think they had something to prove.”
Lorain scored the game’s first 13 points. Four of the starters contributed as the Titans made their first five shots. Lorain was 10-of-14 from the floor in the first quarter and 3-of-3 at the foul line in taking a 27-12 lead. For the first half, the Titans were 20-of-32 and led 51-22.
Taevon Pierre-Louis started it off on Lorain’s first possession with a strong drive to the hoop. Devon Grant tossed in the first of his seven 3-pointers and Jordan Jackson made a three. Pierre-Louis scored on a steal and layup and Deonte Benejan fired in a three from the far right corner and it was 13-0 with 5:20 still to play in the quarter.
“It was basically just the fact that we had to show (Avon) didn’t belong inside the lines with us the way we play,” said Grant, who had his typical great game with 32 points, six rebounds and five assists. “We always have that mindset that other teams don’t belong but we don’t use it as a cockiness or just be so bold about it. We just want to play really hard.”
Grant put on a show. He hit six of his first seven shots and opened the third quarter with three more in a row. For the game he made seven 3-pointers in 12 attempts. He proved his point after scoring only 13 points the first time at Avon.
“The first time we played them, they had us on our toes,” said Pierre-Louis, who finished with 11 points and three rebounds. “This time we had to put pressure on them and they had some turnovers. We weren’t really gambling. It was just solid pressure.”
Avon handled the pressure better than most teams. The Eagles had only eight first-half turnovers and 14 for the game, but most of them turned into Lorain points.
The Eagles struggled to get open looks, especially from outside. Avon made just three 3-pointers after hitting nine in the first meeting.
“We had to pick it up,” said Jackson, who scored 16 and pulled in seven rebounds. “It’s playoff time. I knew I had to pick it up more than I had it going in the regular season. We definitely felt we left (Avon) hang around too long (the last time). We emphasized picking up our defense.”
“They just jumped us,” Avon coach Kevin Sapara said. “You look how they started the game. Maybe 4-for-4, 5-for-5 and we missed a couple open looks.
“To fall behind 13-0 to a really good team like Lorain, it was an uphill battle for us. Our kids didn’t quit, but Lorain didn’t quit. either.”
It’s hard to say Lorain’s defense may be underrated, but the Titans simply get after it on that end and create a ton of offense off their pressure.
“They were locked in on the game plan,” Rositano said. “They executed it perfectly, especially the first half. We were out on shooters. We put good pressure on the basketball without too much gambling. When we do that, we’re pretty good.
“We force a bad shot, we force a quick shot and we’re off to the races and we get an open look, an easy look at the other end.”
Jake Parker closed out his career with 20 points for Avon. No other Eagle made it to double figures.
Lorain 96, Avon 50
AVON (50): Niko Pappas 2-2-6, Cole Warren 0-0-0, Jake Parker 7-4-20, Dean Emerine 3-0-7, Ronier Barrett-Reed 4-0-8, Joey Lance 0-0-0, Dominic Rini 3-1-7, Brandon Doehne 1-0-2, Mike Matlak 0-0-0, Alex Stamatis 0-0-0, Wynston Johnson 0-0-0, Barry Sheaves 0-0-0. Totals 20-7-50.
LORAIN (96): Jordan Jackson 6-2-16, Taevon Pierre-Louis 5-1-11, Devon Grant 11-3-32, Deonte Benejan 4-4-15, Kam Davis 2-0-5, Aiden Brown 1-1-3, Aaron Whitehead 3-0-6, Luis Suarez 1-0-2, De’Vante Jackson 1-2-4, Jaevon Manning 1-0-2, Jaco Lee 0-0-0, Kamron Thomas 0-0-0. Totals 35-13-96.
Avon 12 10 20 8 — 50
Lorain 27 24 26 19 — 96
Three-point goals: Avon 3-8 (Parker 2, Emerine), Lorain 13-24 (Grant 7, Benejan 3, Jackson 2, Davis). Field goals: Avon 20-43 (46.5 percent), Lorain 35-55 (64 percent). Free throws: Avon 7-7 (100 percent), Lorain 13-18 (72 percent). Rebounds: Avon 17 (Warren 4), Lorain 29 (Jackson 7). Turnovers: Avon 14, Lorain 5. Fouls: Avon 16, Lorain 10.