AVON — Avon pushed aside first-game jitters and used a 12-2 second-half run to pull away from Brookside in a 46-36 victory that gave new Eagles coach Kevin Sapara his first victory.
None of the Eagles shot particularly well, hitting 14-of-49 (28 percent) from the floor, but the leadership at point guard by junior Brian Kelly and senior Jack Poyle pulled Avon through, with 12 and 11 points respectively.
“This whole day has been great, especially when I came out and saw the ‘Eagles Nest,’ I got really excited,” Sapara said. “There aren’t many high school atmospheres around like that and I’m glad to be a part of that. We’ve been together less than two weeks and our effort was great, especially on the defensive end. We had some first-game jitters and made some mistakes, but we worked through that.”
The Cardinals (0-3) found themselves behind from the get-go, trailing 13-6 after one quarter, thanks in part to six turnovers that led to six Eagle points, all from Kelly, as he knocked down a free throw, a layup and a 3-pointer with six seconds left in the period.
The Eagles could not build on the lead as they got sloppy on defense and ended up sending Brookside to the free throw line, with the Cardinals knocking down 6-of-13 attempts, including free throws from Nathan Keith and Kelvin Jones in the final 18 seconds that trimmed the Eagles’ lead to 25-19 at the half.
“Because of the football team having a deep run, we’ve only had those guys for a couple of weeks,” Kelly said. “It was a rough start for us, but we got it done and that’s all that matters.”
Brookside carried over its late momentum to start the second half, cutting the Avon lead down to 29-27 midway through the third quarter.
Alex Robinson opened the scoring with a short jumper, Jones scored the next four on a layups and a pair of free throws and Cameron Drew trimmed the lead to two with a driving basket that had the Eagles calling a timeout.
It was a productive timeout for Avon, which pushed the lead to 41-29 over the next seven minutes.
Mike Pulice started the run with a driving hoop, Kelly scored the next four and Zach Gill hit the first of his two threes with 5.6 seconds for a 38-27 advantage. Only a runner in the lane by Robinson (10 points) at the buzzer kept the Cards from being shut out in the last four minutes of the third quarter.
Gill hit his second 3-pointer to open the final eight minutes of play to push the lead to 12 points before Drew matched the three for Brookside with 5:11 left to get the lead back under double digits.
A Robinson basket cut the Eagles lead to 41-34 with 3:24 remaining and from there Avon was content to spread the floor, forcing the Cardinals to foul. The Eagles hit 5-of-9 from the line to hold on for the win.
“We have some inexperience with three returning lettermen,” said Brookside head coach Brent Schremp. “It’s about getting to a point where we can be comfortable with what we are doing and take advantage of what’s going on.
“We showed in that run we had that we could get to our inside guys and establish ourselves. Each game is going to be a learning experience for us.”
Avon 46, Brookside 36
BROOKSIDE (36): Cameron Drew 3-2 9, Nathan Keith 2-2 6, Alex Robinson 4-2 10, Kelvin Jones 3-3 9, Mitto Agosto 1-0 2. Totals 13-9 36.
AVON (46): Zach Gill 2-0 6, Brian Kelly 3-5 12, Ralph Smith 1-0 2, Jack Poyle 2-6 11, Jordan Lawrence 0-1 1, AJ Kistler 3-0 6, Mike Pulice 1-1 3, Walter Rauterkus 2-1 5. Totals 14-14 46.
Brookside 6 13 10 7 — 36
Avon 13 12 13 8 — 46
Three-point goals: Avon 4-of-13 (Gill 2, Kelly, Poyle); Brookside 1-of-6 (Drew). Field goals: Avon 14-of-49 (28 percent); Brookside 13-of-38 (34 percent). Free throws: Avon 14-of-22 (64 percent); Brookside 9-of- 16 (56 percent). Rebounds: Avon 38, Brookside 30. Turnovers: Avon 10, Brookside 16. Fouled Out: None.
Junior varsity: Avon, 47-25.
Contact James Brady at email@example.com.