LORAIN — Thanks to a brand-new gym and sky-high preseason expectations, the Lorain Titans had plenty of reasons to celebrate Tuesday night’s season opener.
Their performance? Probably not one of them.
While Lorain did what it needed to do to put away Vermilion 66-57 and start the new Lorain High era off with a win, Titans coach John Rositano kept the focus on the big picture.
“I thought Vermilion took it to us a little bit,” Rositano said. “I thought they were more aggressive than us, they spread the court on us and took the ball to the basket. We didn’t do a good job of rotating, we didn’t do a good job of stopping the basketball. At times it looked like a layup drill out there.
“Give them credit. They played a good ball game. But I thought our guys, let’s put it this way, we didn’t do the same things we did all summer and all preseason moving the ball offensively.”
Vermilion (2-1), however, led for only 20 seconds all night — at 31-29 and 31-30. But while the Titans never trailed, they also were never really able to put much distance on the Sailors for the first three quarters.
Despite jumping out to a 9-2 lead, Lorain committed eight of its 15 turnovers in the first quarter and Vermilion was able to close on a 14-8 run.
But every time the Sailors got close, Lorain came up with easy buckets thanks largely to the offensive rebounding of Octavious Wilson, who finished with 13 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, six of them offensive.
His biggest moment on the glass came in the second quarter with the Titans nursing a 23-22 lead. Nazihar Bohannon, who had 20 points, missed a free throw and Wilson grabbed the rebound, then grabbed two more offensive rebounds before hitting a putback to push the lead to three.
“That’s basically what I do on this team,” Wilson said. “I get a lot of rebounds and just work around the basket. They play hard and they were really working on us.”
The game stayed tight through three quarters, though Lorain did open the second half on a 6-0 run to briefly push its lead to 10. Vermilion countered with a 15-8 stretch thanks largely to Joby Pfeil, who scored seven of his team-high 14 points during the run.
Mason Montgomery was also key in Vermilion’s rebounding effort, especially after starting center Nik Barkdull suffered a left ankle injury with 2:09 left in the third quarter. Vermilion coach Kurt Habermehl said he believed Barkdull rolled his ankle, but should be fine going forward.
“Coaches knew we could come out here and battle them,” Montgomery said. “We knew we needed to rebound. Those second chances were big.”
Vermilion ultimately cut the deficit to 53-52 with 7:04 to play, but Lorain clamped down and Jalil Little took over — scoring eight of his game-high 21 points during the last seven minutes, a run that started with his layup followed by back-to-back turnovers from Vermilion to push the lead out to seven.
The Titans never looked back.
“I thought it was two even basketball teams playing tonight and our kids competed like crazy,” Habermehl said. “All in all, I’m very proud of my kids. We challenged the kids to compete and they did more than compete, they showed they’re really good basketball players. We had a lot of different grades between juniors, seniors and sophomores on the basketball floor tonight and I didn’t put one kid on the floor that didn’t compete like crazy tonight.”
Lorain 66, Vermilion 57
VERMILION (57): Tristan Mayer 1-0-3, Drew Dawson 5-0-10, Nik Barkdull 3-0-6, Joby Pfeil 6-2-14, Scott Gillespie 3-0-8, Mason Montgomery 5-1-11, Jonah Pfeil 0-2-2, Seth Hurd 0-0-0, Kaleb Caskey 1-0-2, Jake Barnes 0-0-0, Ethan Habermehl 0-1-1. Totals 24-6-57.
LORAIN (66): Octavious Wilson 6-1-13, Daesean Brooks 2-1-6, Nazihar Bohannon 8-4-20, Shayne Smith 0-0-0, Jalil Little 8-5-21, Devone Grant 1-0-3, Marqua Black-Wright 0-1-1, Taevon Pierre-Louis 1-0-2. Totals 26-12-66.
Vermilion 16 17 15 9 — 57
Lorain 17 20 14 15 — 66
Three-point goals: Vermilion 3-10 (Gillespie 2, Mayer), Lorain 2-10 (Brooks, Grant). Field goals: Vermilion 24-52 (46 percent), Lorain 26-50 (52 percent). Free throws: Vermilion 6-9 (67 percent), Lorain 12-21 (57 percent). Rebounds: Vermilion 17 (Barkdull 5, Montgomery 5), Lorain 28 (Wilson 11). Total fouls: Vermilion 20, Lorain 14. Turnovers: Vermilion 18, Lorain 15.
Junior varsity: Lorain, 64-35