AVON — Was it the defensive pressure created by Avon Lake? Or was it the horrid shooting of Keystone? At times it was hard to discern just what created the offensive malaise of the Wildcats.
One thing’s for sure. They kept shooting — and missing.
Keystone’s inability to knock down a shot wore at the team’s confidence, battering their will, until the Wildcats inevitably crumbled. Avon Lake held Keystone to just two second half field goals into the final minute of regulation, as the Shoremen pulled away with a 54-43 victory in the opener of the Avon Holiday Tournament on Thursday.
Avon Lake has now won its first six games of the regular season — all but one of them coming on the road.
For a team that loves to push the pace and create offense in transition, the Shoremen struggled in their own right, entering halftime facing a 30-25 deficit. According to senior guard Tommy Kuzniar, Avon Lake struggled to adjust to the holiday tournament atmosphere — or lack thereof.
“It’s a long break between games and it was a different situation, definitely,” said Kuzniar, who scored a game-high 17 points. “There are no excuses for the way we started. But it was something we had to get over.”
Shoremen coach Eric Smith said the pitfalls of the holiday break created an unusual challenge to overcome.
“Your whole entire routine is thrown off,” said Smith. “Your game preparation, being in school, playing at 6 p.m. The whole gym is dead and there’s no emotion.”
The Shoremen, instead, had to create their own emotion, which meant dominating the boards and creating easy scoring opportunities.
Keystone missed its first 10 shots from the field in the third quarter, giving Avon Lake ample chances to run its fast break. The Shoremen ripped off a 12-2 run over the first seven minutes and turned a five-point deficit into a four-point lead.
For only the fourth time this season, the Wildcats (5-4) allowed an opponent to score better than 43 points. That strong start reflects Keystone’s ability to knock opponents out of their offensive rhythm.
On Thursday, it was the Wildcats (5-4) who lost their poise.
“Basketball IQ-wise, our mentality is, if we’re not hitting our shots, we shoot them even quicker and that’s the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to do,” said Keystone coach Greg Morgan. “You want to get easier shots, get some free throws – then start shooting some 3’s. We’ve got to learn that.”
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon Lake 54, Keystone 43
KEYSTONE (43): Jimmy Reid 1-2-4, Kyle Shaw 1-0-2, Corey Dill 1-0-2, Kyle Smith 2-0-5, Matt Osborne 2-1-5, Matt Herb 2-4-8, Mike Herb 7-0-15, Jeff Knepper 1-0-2. Totals: 17-7-43.
AVON LAKE (54): Tommy Kuzniar 4-8-17, Nick Firment 1-1-4, Parker Russell 0-1-1, Tim Daniels 1-0-3, Dan Outcalt 0-1-1, Brian Mielcusny 3-4-10, Jeff Ickes 6-0-12, Mike Herrilko 2-0-4, Mark Homenik 1-0-2. Totals: 18-15-20.
Keystone 13 17 4 9 — 43
Avon Lake 10 15 13 16 — 54
Three-point goals: Keystone 2 (Smith, Mike Herb); Avon Lake 3 (Kuzniar, Firment, Daniels). Field goals: Keystone 17 of 50 (34 percent); Avon Lake 17 of 43 (39.5 percent). Free throws: Keystone 7 of 12; Avon Lake 15 of 20. Turnovers: Keystone 12; Avon Lake 13. Total fouls: Keystone 10; Avon Lake 12. Fouled out: None. Junior varsity: Avon Lake, 58-28.