SULLIVAN TWP. — Kurt Russell’s message to his Oberlin team was clear: The effort in Monday’s loss to Horizon Science Academy was unacceptable and changes were going to be made.
Russell benched his usual starting lineup to start Tuesday’s game against Black River. It worked like a charm as the rejuvenated Phoenix held off the turnover-prone yet scrappy Pirates 73-59 in Patriot Athletic Conference crossover play.
“It feels so good,” said center Trevon Tucker, who had a team-high 21 points off the bench. “We’ve been waiting for this. We’re just trying to get confidence for this week. (The 46-43 loss to Horizon Science) wasn’t a confidence game, so we really didn’t sweat it. We just said we needed to get back on track.
“Our starters played horrible (Monday) and he just wanted to send us a message. It worked.”
Oberlin didn’t sub in its top players until midway through the first quarter, yet turned a seven-point deficit into an 11-point lead in a matter of five minutes.
The Phoenix held Black River scoreless for 4:54 during a 33-8 run that extended into the third quarter, and then made sure the Pirates’ desperation comeback never surpassed the cosmetic stage.
Tucker had eight points and four rebounds during Oberlin’s 20-2 second-quarter advantage. Point guard Tyree Browne (10 points, six assists) controlled the game with precision, fellow bench guard Jason Moore (14 points) put away Black River for good with six fourth-quarter points and Marcus Bailey, Noland Isom and DaShaun Horton each scored seven or more points.
Most important, Oberlin didn’t take Russell’s punishment lightly and used it as fuel to win for the seventh time in its last eight games and net a season scoring high.
“I thought the kids came out with a little more effort,” said a satisfied Russell, whose team held a 45-21 edge in bench points. “We started the second string tonight just to try and put a little hunger in our better players. We’re still a work in progress, but I’m glad with the victory tonight.”
Black River once again threw the ball around the gym and even one time out of it when John Guilford, who was easily the Pirates’ best player all evening, fired a ball into a hallway. The Pirates finished with 29 turnovers, but shot .800 (12-of-15) from the free throw line, drilled a season-high seven 3-pointers and had 16 assists on 20 field goals.
Guilford finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Backup forward Zach Sword scored 10 of his career-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, Gus Kazek (12 points) was 6-of-6 at the foul line and Andrew Vaughn had an eventful game with five points, seven rebounds, six assists and 14 turnovers.
While the second quarter obviously was the Pirates’ downfall, second-year coach Don Brunker complimented his team for a 14-4 run that got the deficit to 55-47 with 4:46 left.
“We didn’t do what we needed to do in the second quarter, and they were able to capitalize,” Brunker said. “They got the tempo up where they wanted it and we lost our ability to keep the tempo down. We did a much better job of that in the first, third and fourth quarters, but the damage was done in the second quarter.”
Oberlin 73, Black River 59
OBERLIN (73): Marcus Bailey 3-0-7, Jonathan Austin 0-0-0, DaShaun Horton 4-0-9, Noland Isom 5-0-10, Charles Lewis 1-0-2, Jason Moore 5-4-14, Tyree Browne 4-0-10, Trevon Tucker 10-1-21, Dominic Taylor 0-0-0. Totals 32-5-73.
BLACK RIVER (59): Dean Finkel 1-0-2, Tyler Potter 3-2-8, John Guilford 5-0-11, Gus Kazek 2-6-12, Andrew Vaughn 2-1-5, Zach Sword 7-3-21, Stephen Zumack 0-0-0, Tom Ziebro 0-0-0. Totals 20-12-59.
Oberlin 11 20 20 22 — 73
Black River 18 2 13 26 — 59
Three-point goals: Oberlin 4-10 (Browne 2, Bailey, Horton), Black River 7-20 (Sword 4, Kazek 2, Guilford). Field goals: Oberlin 32-62 (51.6 percent), Black River 20-54 (37.0 percent). Free throws: Oberlin 5-13 (38.5 percent), Black River 12-15 (80.0 percent). Rebounds: Oberlin 34 (Tucker 7), Black River 29 (Guilford 9). Assists: Oberlin 17 (Browne 6), Black River 16 (Vaughn 6). Turnovers: Oberlin 23, Black River 29.
Junior varsity: Oberlin, 53-31.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.