BAY VILLAGE, Ohio — With a swashbuckling second-half performance the Pirates gave a game effort, but Rocky River fell to Bay, 68-58, in district tournament play on Friday.
After falling behind a powerful Rocket team, 7-0, in the early going, River worked its way back into the contest with gutty team play over the third and fourth quarters. The Pirates (15-9) were down by as many as 18 points early in the third but would get as close as six by the mid-fourth before being closed out by a senior-laden Bay squad now bound for a semifinal game in the Division II North Ridgeville District Tournament.
Rocky River’s valiant comeback effort was undone by the rock-solid shooting of the Bay Rockets, who went 24-of-45 (53.3) from the field and 8-of-19 (42.1) from beyond the arc against what figures as one of the better Pirate defenses in recent memory. Bay guard Erik Painter — one of eight seniors on the team — led all scorers with 35 points in the contest.
Painter and the Rockets jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first, with Rocky River missing each of its first five shot attempts. Painter would go on to net 13 in the opening quarter, one that ended with the visiting five in a seven-point hole (20-13). A mid-quarter Painter triple upped the Rocket lead to 15 in the second quarter. The Pirates battled back to get within 10, but a 26-footer by Painter sent the home side into halftime leading by 13 (35-22).
Strong Rocket rebounding was a problem for River all night. That was especially the case early in the third when Bay extended its lead to 18 by scoring the first five points of the period.
Adept and alert passing and solid production up and down the lineup was the hallmark of a River rally over the rest of the third quarter. Junior guards Cristain Dean and Tommy Ruma filled the bucket and dished out passes to open scorers, and the three River seniors — Grant Eversman, Luke Coyne and John Ruma — were also key in a comeback that saw River get to within nine before a dagger trey by Painter in the final minute of the third.
An Eversman triple and two Dean baskets in the paint were part of a 9-3 River run over the early minutes of the fourth. At the three-minute-mark, a big bucket by Dean again got the Pirates within six (59-53), and when the ensuing Bay possession resulted in a Connor O’Toole blocked shot the momentum of the game was up for grabs.
But again, the Bay Rockets came up with a big play. On that same possession extended by O’Toole’s block, Bay senior Cade Gergye was fouled on a nifty basket in the lane. Gergye completed the three-point play with a free throw at the 2:45-mark. The Bay lead stood at nine (62-53).
It wouldn’t be until the 53-second mark (on a Tommy Ruma trey) that the Pirates got even as close as eight points the rest of the way.
And despite the Pirates outscoring the Rockets, 36-33, in the second half, Bay closed out what marked its third victory over River this season (and its 11th straight over the Pirates, dating back to 2015).
For the game, Rocky River shot 52.2 percent (24-of-46) from the field. With Eversman’s three 3-pointers leading the way, River went 6-of-14 (42.2 percent) from distance. The Pirates were outdone on the glass and were a negative in the exchange of turnovers (RR 11, Bay 6).
Cristain Dean finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Luke Coyne added 13 points. Eversman had nine and Tommy Ruma had eight points and three assists. Dean (8-of-17 on field goals) and Coyne (6-of-9) were solid in leading the Pirate attack.
It was an attack perhaps a beat slow in getting underway. But it was also one that — when all cylinders were clicking — closed out the 2018-19 Rocky River Basketball season with players up and down the roster contributing.
CANNON FIRE …
FRAMING THE SEASON: River’s 15 wins this season marked the program’s most in a single season since 2012-13. The Pirates averaged 63 points per game, their most for any season tracked on the website MaxPreps (since 2005). River’s 56 points per game allowed marks the team’s best since 2015-16 and a near-four-point improvement from last year’s squad.
BRACKET BUSTED: Friday’s’s contest in North Ridgeville bracket play featured the Pirates as the district tournament’s No. 6 seed and the Rockets as the No. 3 seed.
EVERY MINUTE COUNTS: The host Rockets outscored the Pirates, 7-0, over the early minutes of the first half and 5-0 over the first 90 seconds of the second. Over the rest of the game — some 28 minutes of game action — Rocky River outscored Bay, 58-56.
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