ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – The Pirates got another shutdown effort on defense and put on a tic-tac-toe passing clinic on offense, as Rocky River defeated Valley Forge, 75-44, on Tuesday night.
Tommy Ruma (20 points), Luke Coyne (19) and Cristain Dean (15) were the primary beneficiaries of – and co-conspirators in – a Rocky River offense that produced a monster total of 26 assists on the night. Unselfish team play and inventive, crisp passing was on display up and down the roster, in transition, in half-court sets, out high, down low, across the lane and over the heads of helpless Patriot defenders.
“I thought we passed the ball extremely well,” said Head Coach Mike Murray, whose Pirates are now 4-1 over their last five games. “Our defense was outstanding, and it fed into some success in transition. Especially at the beginning of a game, that type of ball is a big lift confidence-wise. Everyone gets in on the action.”
Rocky River (12-4, 6-3 Great Lakes Conference) certainly had everyone in on the action in a tremendous first quarter that saw the Pirates outscore the Patriots, 30-12. The defense and passing of junior guard Connor O’Toole and senior forward John Ruma spearheaded an 11-3 run over the final three minutes of that opening quarter.
The Pirates – winners now of 8-of-9 at home – would extend their lead to 20 points by the midpoint of the second quarter. However, with a widening River rotation and several turnovers converted at the other end for Valley Forge, the second and third quarters were a mostly-even exchange for the Pirates and Patriots. Valley Forge got solid work from Miguel Ortiz and Logan Sasse; both would finish the game with 11 points.
The Maroon & White outscored their visitors, 19-4, in the fourth to close out the 31-point plunder.
For the Pirates, Tuesday’s victory at Rocky River Gymnasium marked a season sweep of the Patriots. River defeated Valley Forge, 77-55, in Parma on Jan. 11.
Tuesday’s win saw the Pirates notch a 53.3-percent (32-of-60) mark in shooting the basketball. The defense held Valley Forge to an 18-of-52 (34.6 percent) performance.
Remarkably, just seven River baskets weren’t attached to an assist. Dean (eight helpers), Coyne (five) and the Ruma brothers (five each) were the team leaders on a night when River fans in attendance may have born witness to a single-game program record. (High school assist statistics aren’t kept particularly well and are preserved even less so. But a scan of River’s single-game totals on MaxPreps.com indicates the Pirates’ 26 assists are the most in any game over the last 10 seasons.)
Take the exact number out of the equation, because it wasn’t a stand-alone effort. This 2018-19 brand of Rocky River Basketball is one that can pass the rock. And one that can defend it at the other end.
CANNON FIRE …
PATRIOT GAMES: With Tuesday’s home-court victory, Rocky River is now 10-7 over its last 17 games against Valley Forge. River’s Basketball Buccaneers have won three straight in the series.
ON DECK: The next game for the Maroon & White will be on Saturday, when the Pirates travel to the south side of town for a road game at Lutheran West. The Pirates and Longhorns will tangle in the back half of a girls’-boys’ doubleheader (girls at 5:30 p.m., boys at 7).
YOUNG BUCS: Rocky River’s junior-varsity squad lost to Valley Forge, 45-40. River battled back from a 13-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter to make things interesting at the end. Pirate scoring on the night was a depth charge: River got eight points from Andrew Kashmarek and six apiece from Matt George, Matt McDonald and Jack Scholl. The Pirate JV is now 7-7 on the season. … The Rocky River freshman squad played a road game at Oberlin on Tuesday. The Pirates defeated the Phoenix, 57-31. The River Rookies got standout performances by Aidan Coyne, Jacob Florentine and Patrick Lange.
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photo credit: Kent Klodnick