AVON — Holiday tournaments rarely leave a deep imprint on the memory bank of a team. Avon Lake, though, certainly remembers last year’s trip to Avon.
In the first round of the Avon Holiday Tournament, the Shoremen stumbled through one of their worst offensive performances of the year, a 46-36 stunner to the host Eagles.
Players were beside themselves.
“You never want to lose to your neighbor,” said Avon Lake senior guard Nick Firment. “So we came out pretty motivated this year.”
That was made fairly evident with the way the Shoremen dispensed of the Elyria Catholic Panthers 54-39 in the Holiday Tournament championship on Saturday.
In the process, Avon Lake improved to 7-0 overall, just three victories short of matching last year’s win total. Just as notable is the fact that six of those wins have come on the road.
“Coming in this year, knew could be good team,” said Firment, who scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds against the Panthers. “Now we’re proving that and getting some respect.”
Through the first third of its season, the Shoremen have relied heavily on the offensive production of senior guard Tommy Kuzniar, who entered Saturday’s game averaging 19.2 points per game. Against Elyria Catholic, though, Kuzniar attempted only nine shots from the field and scored a game-high 13 points — nine of which came in the first quarter alone.
Avon Lake instead relied on the production of several of its secondary weapons, Firment, its veteran point guard, and senior reserve Nick Hamilton, both of whom scored 10 points a piece.
“That’s the thing with (Kuzniar),” said Avon Lake coach Eric Smith. “He doesn’t need 20 shots a game to get his points. He’s very efficient with the way he shoots.”
The Shoremen turned a tightly contested ballgame into a rout in the third quarter, in large part as a result of its defense.
For much of the game, Elyria Catholic relied on high-percentage interior looks or trips to the foul line as its primary source of offense. But that came to a swift halt in the third quarter.
Holding fast to a 26-22 lead, Avon Lake switched from a man-to-man defense to more of a zone, challenging the Panthers to hit a shot from the perimeter.
Avon Lake ripped off a 9-0 run over the final 4:35 and held Elyria Catholic to 4 of 19 shooting in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the first time we’ve played a 2-3 zone all year,” said Smith. “And we put it in at halftime. That’s the good thing about this team — you can make adjustments and they handle it well.”
Elyria Catholic had entered the holiday championship after snapping a six-game losing streak against host Avon with a thrilling overtime victory Thursday. But the Panthers were once against undermined by an inability to produce on offense.
“We just weren’t converting on offense and that’s what we needed to do,” said Elyria Catholic coach Alan Januzzi. “We couldn’t get the ball inside. We were getting some looks. Just couldn’t get them to go down.”
For the fourth time this year, Elyria Catholic was unable to cross the 50-point threshold.
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon Lake 54, Elyria Catholic 39
AVON LAKE (54): Tommy Kuzniar 5-1-13, Nick Firment 3-2-10, Parker Russell 0-2-2, Nick Hamilton 3-4-10, Tim Daniels 1-4-6, Brian Mielcusny 2-0-4, Jeff Ickes 2-2-6, Mike Herrilko 1-1-3. Totals: 17-16-25.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (39): Joe Januzzi 1-1-3, Cody Schuster 3-3-11, Jacob Schuster 1-0-2, Joe Fitch 1-3-5, Ryan Taylor 1-0-2, Kevin Fentner 1-7-10, Josh Russ 0-1-1, Paul Kubuski 2-1-5. Totals: 10-16-39.
Avon Lake 12 14 14 14 — 54
Elyria Catholic 9 13 6 11 — 39
Three-point goals: Avon Lake 4 (Kuzniar 2, Firment 2); Elyria Catholic 3 (Cody Schuster 2, Fentner). Field goals: Avon Lake 17 of 40 (42.5 percent); Elyria Catholic 10 of 47 (21.2 percent). Free throws: Avon Lake 16 of 25; Elyria Catholic 16 of 23. Turnovers: Avon Lake 15; Elyria Catholic 20. Total fouls: Avon Lake 22; Elyria Catholic 18. Fouled out: None.