AVON – Amherst coach Phil Schmook doesn`t like leftovers – at least in regards to basketball.
One night after watching his team blow a 15-point lead in a loss to Berea, the Comets carried the collapse over into the first quarter of Saturday night`s game against Avon. However, the Comets were able to shake off their hangover and overcome a pair of double-digit deficits en route to a 51-43 non-conference win over the Eagles.
“Part of the problem in the first quarter was me,” said Schmook. “I`ve been harping on these guys the last 12-14 hours about how we were beating Berea by 15 points and lost. It wasn`t anything Berea did, we just missed shots. I kept harping on these guys about that, and maybe I got them too worried about missing shots.
“The first quarter tonight was the way we played in the fourth quarter against Berea. It was nothing that Avon did – it was what we didn`t do. We didn`t put the ball in the basket, we didn`t defend, we didn`t box out and we didn`t rebound.”
Avon, on the other hand, did all that and more during the first eight minutes of the game as they jumped out to a 17-4 lead largely on the back of Steve Isaac. The 6-foot-3 senior scored nine of his game-high 21 points in the opening quarter as Avon (2-1) took control. Unfortunately for the Eagles, their first-quarter success didn`t carry into the second.
Avon led 19-6 when things started to fall apart. A basket by Amherst`s Alex Endrai sparked a 10-0 quarter-closing run that cut the deficit to 19-16 at the intermission. Endrai, who finished with 12 points, scored six points during the run.
Avon answered with its own run to start the second half. Isaac scored the Eagles` first eight points to push the lead back to double digits, 27-16, with 4:36 left in the third quarter. But just as it did in the first half, Amherst rallied. Back-to-back baskets by reserve Steve Williams started a 14-5 run that pulled the Comets to within 32-30 to start the fourth quarter.
That`s when the Comets` Ryan Rua came alive.
The senior guard scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the final period as the Comets seized control. With his team trailing 36-31 with 4:45 left, Rua hit a basket and followed it with a free throw to cut the Avon lead to 36-34. A pair of Endrai free throws tied the game at 36, then Endrai gave the Comets the 39-36 lead with his lone 3-pointer of the game. From there, Rua hit a pair of baskets and went 5-of-8 from the line down the stretch to ice the victory.
“We were disappointed in how we finished Friday night,” said Rua. “We didn`t start well (Saturday) but we didn`t give up either. We kept our focus and worked our way out of it.”
Ironically, Rua was benched in the first half for what Schmook described as “not being offensive-minded enough.”
“I want our kids to be offensive-minded,” said Schmook. “In my opinion (Rua) wasn`t taking the ball enough to the basket. To his credit, Ryan was able to understand that and correct it.
“We are a better basketball team when he makes plays and penetrates.”
Afterward, Avon coach Jim Baker accepted the blame for the loss.
“We didn`t play well fundamentally and that`s my fault,” said Baker. “We threw some bad passes, took some bad shots and couldn`t sustain the momentum when we had it. It`s my job to have them fundamentally sound and tonight we weren`t.”
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amherst 51, Avon 43
AMHERST (51): Ryan Rua 6-7-19, Alex Endrai 4-3-12, Brandon Coulter 3-2-8, Steve Williams 4-0-8, Zane Papay1-0-2, Adam Crnobrnja 0-1-1. Totals 18-14-51.
AVON (43): Steve Isaac 10-0-21, Kyle Gregory 4-0-8, Andrew Wimmer 2-0-4, Mike Carge 1-0-3, Marquic Harrell 1-1-3, Josh Harrison 1-0-2, Matt Logan 1-0-2. Totals 20-1-43.
Amherst 4 12 14 21 – 51
Avon 17 2 13 11 – 43
Three-point goals: Amherst 1 of 12 (Endrai), Avon 2 of 8 (Carge, Isaac). Field goals: Amherst 18 of 57 (32 percent), Avon 20 of 52 (38 percent). Free throws: Amherst 14 of 24 (58 percent), Avon 1 of 6 (17 percent). Rebounds: Amherst 30 (Coulter 9), Avon 32 (Wimmer 10). Turnovers: Amherst 13, Avon 16. Total fouls: Amherst 11, Avon 20. Fouled out: None.
JV: Amherst 52-47.