Western Reserve survived a scoreless stretch of almost nine minutes through most of the third quarter and into the early fourth period last night, to post a 54-47 Firelands Conference win over St. Paul.
The win keeps the Roughriders in contention for the league title. They take an 11-2 league record, and a 14-5 overall mark against invading Crestview Friday. They will be cheering for St. Paul that night, as the Flyers travel to Plymouth, to take on the current league leader. Plymouth has a one-game lead.
Western could survive that long scoring drought, because of a huge 32-15 lead at halftime. With John Pickett scoring seven points and Adam Daniels five, the Riders took a 19-8 lead after eight minutes. Seth Todd hit five points in the second stanza.
It was a different St. Paul team which came out for the second half.
"We talked at halftime that we wanted to play four quarters of basketball. We understood that they were going to pick up the intensity level at the defensive end," said Western Coach Chris Sheldon. "Their kids responded and they also had some fortunate breaks go their way to enable them to continue their progress."
Western's Craig Buckingham and Pickett converted rebounds for a 36-17 lead just over a minute into the third period.
But the rest of the quarter, against the Flyers' aggressive defense, the Riders missed their final eight shots and had seven turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Flyers hit three of their next four shots, including three-pointers from Ryan Hill and Joe Graziani.
Drew Hipp and Brad Frank also hit four foul shots in a row, and St. Paul closed to 36-29 at the 2:16 mark. Neither team scored the rest of the quarter.
The Flyers closed to 36-31, as Frank hit a spinning jumper for two of his nine points in the final quarter. But Western hit 14 of 17 free throws in the period, and never allowed St. Paul to come any closer than five points. Freshman guard Brett Pickens had seven of those foul shots and nine points in the period.
St. Paul Coach Mike Smith was disappointed with the poor start, but happy with the second-half play.
"You can't spot as good a basketball team as they are 17 points. We were very disinterested in playing physically for the first 16 minutes of basketball," he said.
Smith continued, "When we did play physically, we were a different basketball team.
"In the last three minutes, we did a good job as far as when to foul, and in making plays at the offensive end," he added.
The Flyers (6-12, 5-8) have two tough games to end the regular season, with invading Sandusky St. Mary's tonight and then Plymouth.
"We need a win badly. We need to win one of these two to springboard into the tournament. It's not an x's and o's thing, it's an attitude thing," Smith said. "I'd like to get both of them. We haven't played down against anyone. We've brought it every night."
Frank paced all scorers with 17 points. Hipp and Hill each scored 11. Tyler Camp paced the Flyers with seven rebounds and Hipp had six.
Daniels and Pickett tied for Rider scoring honors with 13 points, and Pickens hit 11. Buckingham was top rebounder with eight, and Pickett had seven.
Sheldon was happy with the way his players responded in the final quarter. "For the most part, in the fourth quarter, we had a couple of kids step up who wanted the ball in their hands and who responded well," he said.
"A road win over here...you've got to take it and be happy with it. I'm proud of this group of kids. We lost five seniors, and to be in the hunt for the league title in the last weekend of the season is something a lot of people would not have said about this group of kids," he said.
St. Paul raced to a 17-2 first-quarter lead, and won the junior varsity contest 43-30. Adam Pugh scored 14, Zach Blair 10 and Dominic Dellisanti nine. Jordan Montgomery and Matt Gillenwater paced Western with six apiece.