NORTH RIDGEVILLE — By now, Elyria’s basketball team should know close only counts in horseshoes and drive-in movies.
Elyria saw another last-second chance to win a game slip away as North Ridgeville held on for a 58-57 decision in a non-conference game Friday.
The Pioneers fell to 1-6, while the Rangers evened their record at 2-2. It marked the first time the Rangers have beaten Elyria since February 1992 — a streak that had extended to 16 straight.
As if they needed to be reminded, the Pioneers dropped a heartbreaker in overtime to open the season against Berea and on Tuesday dropped a one-pointer to Sandusky in the consolation of the Lorain County Holiday Classic.
In all three games, Elyria had the ball with a chance to win at the end, but couldn’t get the job done.
Incredibly, just as the Rangers did last Tuesday against Valley Forge, they nearly threw the game away. Drew McGhee’s short-range shot put North Ridgeville up 58-54 with just 18 seconds left, but Elyria’s Josh Brubaker nailed a 3-pointer from the left baseline with seven seconds to play to cut the lead to one.
“I was real worried that was going through the players’ minds,” Rangers coach Bill Noggle said when reminded of his team’s loss at Valley Forge, when the Patriots won with a pair of 3-pointers after being down four late. “That’s why I called that one timeout and told them this is a mental-toughness check right now.”
With five seconds remaining, Elyria’s Travis Noble and Chase Ferris managed to tie up Keene Cockburn in backcourt. The possession arrow was in Elyria’s favor, but the Pioneers couldn’t get the ball in play as it bounced away from Ferris underneath and out of bounds with just two ticks left.
“We got a lot closer,” said Elyria’s first-year coach Brett Larrick. “We came close to being the outcome we wanted. We came close to the effort that we wanted. We battled. We battled hard and we played hard. I’m very proud of the kids.”
One lapse cost Elyria dearly and North Ridgeville took full advantage. This time it came in the third quarter as the Rangers forced nine turnovers and ran off 12 unanswered points over a two-and-a-half-minute stretch to reverse a six-point deficit.
Senior Ryan McNamara’s 3-pointer with 2:33 to play in the quarter put North Ridgeville ahead 45-39, and after he matched Mike Cannon’s 3-pointer for Elyria, Cockburn hit a layup off a Ranger steal to push the lead to eight entering the final quarter.
Another difference came at the free throw line. North Ridgeville cashed in on 14-of-21 foul shots, while Elyria was just 5-of-8. The Pioneers took only two free throws in the second half.
“We didn’t play hard for 32 minutes,” Larrick said. “Those guys understand that. They don’t like close anymore. They’re a little dejected and they can be a little dejected.”
Dejection was an emotion the Rangers definitely didn’t share, even though they had their own frustrations.
“We’re glad to get away with a win,” Noggle said. “We did a lot of stupid things at the end to try and give the game away.”
Cannon led Elyria with 14 points. Matt Velazquez and Brandon Mueller each had 11. The Pioneers nearly matched the Rangers on the boards behind Ferris, Noble and Will Rudolph. The three combined for 20 boards.
Cockburn, a 6-foot-6 senior, finished with 18 points and eight boards for North Ridgeville. McGhee scored 16 points, had 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, but he was a subpar 5-of-14 from the field. McNamara had four 3-pointers and five rebounds.
North Ridgeville 58, Elyria 57
ELYRIA (57): Mike Cannon 5-2-14, Eric Santo Domingo 2-0-4, Travis Noble 4-0-9, Matt Velazquez 5-0-11, Chase Ferris 1-1-3, Will Rudolph 0-0-0, Josh Brubaker 1-2-5, Brandon Mueller 4-0-11. Totals 22-5-57.
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (58): Dan Montgomery 2-0-4, Keene Cockburn 6-6-18, Nick Rodgerson 3-0-6, Jake Rigsby 0-2-2, Drew McGhee 5-6-16, Ryan McNamara 4-0-12, Jason Ice 0-0-0, Mark Szylakowski 0-0-0. Totals 20-14-58.
Elyria 13 18 11 15 — 57
North Ridgeville 13 17 20 8 — 58
Three-point goals: Elyria 8-21 (Mueller 3, Cannon 2, Noble, Velazquez, Brubaker). North Ridgeville 4-10 (McNamara 4). Field Goals: Elyria 22-57 (39 percent). North Ridgeville 20-53 (38 percent). Free Throws: Elyria 5-8 (62.5 percent). North Ridgeville 14-21 (66 percent). Rebounds: Elyria 36 (Ferris 9). North Ridgeville 38 (McGhee 10). Turnovers: Elyria 18, North Ridgeville 17. Fouls: Elyria 16, North Ridgeville 12. Fouled Out: None.
Junior Varsity: North Ridgeville 54-46.