ELYRIA - A new coach and Brandon Schmidt`s transfer to Wellington were the dominating topics of conversation during First Baptist`s offseason.
On Thursday night, the Sabres` Aaron Goodrich was the one doing the dominating.
The 6-foot-3 junior scored 24 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to spark the Sabres to a 39-26 season-opening victory over Hearts for Jesus Christ.
"It`s pretty nice to get a â€˜W` in the first game," said Goodrich. "It was tough losing Brandon. We weren`t just teammates, we were friends off the court, too. But we can`t worry about who isn`t here, what matters is who is here. We have some good players on this team.
"We`re young and we expect to get better as the season goes on."
It doesn`t get much better than it did in the opening quarter for Goodrich and his teammates.
First Baptist (1-0) scored the first 15 points of the game to seize control as Goodrich showed his scoring prowess by scoring 11 points of the run from various places on the court. A 3-pointer, a pair of free throws and a trio of jumpers by Goodrich didn`t seem to faze his teammates, but it surprised the Gladiators (1-1).
"We didn`t realize that No. 23 (Goodrich) was such a dynamic player," Gladiators coach Kevin Connors said. "He caught us off guard. By the time we realized what he could do, he had done it."
The Gladiators finally got on the board with a pair of free throws by Erabo Akhiobe with 2:17 left in the opening quarter.
First Baptist led 19-6 in the second quarter when Goodrich went on another scoring binge. This time Goodrich scored nine straight points for the Sabres - including his second 3-pointer of the game - to run the lead to 28-8 with 2:00 remaining in the half.
When the buzzer sounded the intermission, the Sabres led 31-10. Goodrich`s line at that point was 20 points and four boards.
"I didn`t know exactly what Aaron had at halftime but I knew he was doing well," Sabres coach John Milam said. "And I`m sure he couldn`t tell you what he had then either. He worked hard in the offseason to elevate his game and he showed some of that tonight."
Neither team got off to a good start in the second half. The Sabres hit only two of their 11 shots in the third quarter for just four points. However, the Gladiators were unable to take advantage as they connected on just three of nine shots and a single free throw for seven points.
Both teams continued their offensive struggles in the fourth quarter. A Goodrich basket with 4:58 left were the first points of the quarter and extended the Sabres lead to 37-17. A 7-0 run by the Gladiators cut the First Baptist lead to 37-24 but a basket by the Sabres` Tyler Luncford with :58 remaining ended any threat of a Gladiators comeback.
"We tried to go through Aaron in the second half rather than to him," said Milam of the Sabres` second-half offensive struggles. "We wanted to get some other players involved and also work some kinks out of the offense.
"We weren`t looking to push the ball up much and were more deliberate in our offense."
Goodrich was the lone Sabre in double figures, while Isaiah Board and T.J. Tripp each finished with four points. Colby Popik led the Gladiators with 14 points, while Pierce Brown grabbed 10 rebounds.
First Baptist 39, Hearts for Jesus 26
HEARTS FOR JESUS CHRIST (26): Colby Popic 6-1-14, Erabo Akhiobe 1-2-4, Adam Lyons 2-0-4, Pierce Brown 0-2-2, Christian Connors 1-0-2. Totals: 10-5-26.
FIRST BAPTIST (39): Aaron Goodrich 10-2-24, TJ Tripp 0-4-4, Isaiah Board 2-0-4, Jared Vincent 1-0-2, Tyler Luncford 1-0-2, Tyler Williams 1-0-2, Brandon Young 0-1-1. Totals: 15-7-39.
HFJC 5 5 7 9 - 26
First Baptist 19 12 4 4 - 39
Three-point goals: HFJC 1 of 6 (Popik); First Baptist 2 of 4 (Goodrich 2). Field goals: HFJC 10 of 44 (22 percent); First Baptist 15 of 46 (33 percent). Free throws: HFJC 5 of 11 (45 percent); First Baptist 7 of 13 (54 percent). Rebounds: HFJC 26 (Brown 10), First Baptist 32 (Goodrich 11). Turnovers: HFJC 21, First Baptist 18. Total fouls: HFJC 16, First Baptist 10. Fouled out: None.