ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – The Pirates advanced in postseason play, as Rocky River defeated Firelands, 74-60, on Tuesday night.
Rocky River (15-8) set up the home-court victory with a dominant first half, one that saw the Pirates outscore the Falcons, 42-18. In a bounce-back effort after a disappointing 69-48 loss to Bay on Senior Night (Feb. 22), River’s shooting was sharp in Tuesday’s opening half. Its passing was sharper, still.
Nifty passing helped Rocky River answer an early 6-0 Firelands run with a 10-0 run of its own. Junior forward Charlie Hudson capped off that run with a three-point play and would go on to score seven points in the opening-round contest of North Ridgeville Division II District Tournament play.
With senior forward John Ruma knocking down two treys and the Pirates committing just one turnover, the Maroon & White closed out the first quarter owning a 19-10 lead.
In the second quarter, Rocky River’s strong defense was at the fore in a late-period 12-0 run. A Tommy Ruma three at the buzzer sent the Pirates and Falcons (6-17) into their respective locker rooms – separated by 24 points (42-18) – at the half.
Firelands came out of the gate strong in the third, pressuring the Pirates into quickly doubling their first-half turnover total of two and starting the half on an 8-0 run. A Cristain Dean layup at the 5:38-mark brought an end to that opening Falcon salvo. Firelands whittled the River lead to 13 (47-34) late in the third and would go into the fourth trailing, 53-37.
Strong play by guard Caden Bomback and center Jacob Schmitz got Firelands within nine (63-54) by the 3:16-mark of the fourth. Aggressive Falcon play forced the Pirates into uncharacteristic and costly turnovers. But that aggressive play came at the cost of the home side getting plenty of trips to the free-throw line – the Pirates would shoot a robust 83.3 percent (20-of-24) on their uncontested 15-footers. Even so, the Sons of Blackbeard had trouble regaining the momentum of the game throughout much of the final stanza.
The Falcons did get as close as eight points (65-57) in the back half of the fourth. But a necessitated endgame launching of well-guarded threes and fouling of Pirates was a net plus for the Maroon & White, who closed out the state-bracket victory with a final 14-point cushion (74-60).
For the game, River was a minus-3 (13-to-10) in the turnover exchange, but the Pirates shot their way out of that deficit. Rocky River shot 54.8 percent (23-of-42) from the floor and 47.1 percent (8-of-17) from beyond the 3-point arc in winning at home for the ninth time this season (9-3).
The shooting performance marked River’s best since in six games (since shooting 64 percent, 30-of-47, at Lutheran West on Feb. 9). That marksmanship also marked a bounce-back after the Pirates had shot just 35 percent (18-of-52) in last week’s home loss to Bay.
Senior center Luke Coyne made the most of his final home-floor minutes. River’s third-year letterman led Pirate scorers with 21 points. Coyne was 9-of-12 from the field, and he also logged six rebounds and three blocked shots.
Fellow seniors John Ruma and Grant Eversman were dialed in from 19 feet-nine inches. Each knocked down a pair of threes while scoring eight points.
Junior guard Tommy Ruma went 6-for-6 on free throws in scoring 11 against Firelands. Fellow juniors Cristain Dean (nine points, seven assists) and Connor O’Toole (six points, two steals) were also standouts for the River five.
Schmitz (20 points) – a 6-foot-6 junior center – and senior guard Austin Urban (19 points) combined to lead the Falcon attack.
And now for the Pirates, its back to Bay. To the site of a heart-breaking 87-83 overtime loss (Jan. 4) to face a foe that won wire-to-wire in convincing fashion at Rocky River Gymnasium last Friday. A foe that has beaten the Pirates in 10 straight games since 2015.
But a foe that nonetheless will start this Friday’s game with the same number of points as their visitors from Rocky River: 0.
CANNON FIRE …
TOURNEY TIME: Tuesday’s contest in North Ridgeville bracket play featured the Pirates as the district tournament’s No. 6 seed and the Falcons as the No. 11 seed. Rocky River has now won an opening-round tournament game in back-to-back seasons.
VALUABLE COYNE: Tuesday’s effort marked Luke Coyne’s sixth 20-point game of the season. The versatile Pirate athlete – who will finish his senior year having been a three-sport athlete all four years at RRHS – went into Tuesday’s tournament tussle averaging 14.2 points per game.
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