ELYRIA — Sometimes the game comes down to experience. The Open Door Patriots, loaded with well-tested big men, shook off some post-holiday blahs to defeat the visiting Oberlin Phoenix, 62-52, Tuesday night.
It was Oberlin’s first loss.
Oberlin, helped by eight Open Door turnovers, took a quick 8-2 lead with 3:33 to play in the opening quarter. But the Patriots, despite two more turnovers, quickly righted the ship to take an 11-10 lead after eight minutes.
The Phoenix made use of its speed in retaking the lead early in the second period when Tyree Brown drove for a layup and Noland Isom converted a steal into a fastbreak layup for a 14-11 lead.
At that point, the patient Patriot offense took over. With senior Abe Valentine taking what the defense gave him, he drove the lane, hit from outside and began to find senior Michael Terry and sophomore Billy Lucien, both 6-foot-5, underneath for layups. The result was a 32-25 halftime lead.
“Open Door played tremendously,” said Oberlin coach Kurt Russell. “We just could not match up with them down low. We had a difficult time with their size and strength.”
The 6-foot-3 Valentine, who led his team with 21 points, hit a pair of threes early in the third quarter to push the Patriots to their biggest lead at 44-29 at the 3:45 mark. But a three by Oberlin’s Brown and a pair of layups by Dominic Taylor helped close the gap to 50-42 with a quarter to go.
Threes by Isom, who led the Phoenix with 21, and by Brown brought Oberlin back to a 54-50 deficit but the Patriots were able to slow the pace and put the game away with 6 of 7 free throws, including 4-of-4 by guard Eric Mann over the last 3:21.
“We struggled taking care of the ball,” said coach Jason Penley, whose Patriots improved to 6-2. “We shot well (18-of-41) but I told them we just had to get shots. But give Oberlin credit. Their matchup zone gave us the fits. Anytime you turn the ball over as much as we did and still win, you have to be happy.”
“We knew we had a size advantage,” Penley said. “It’s an interesting dynamic in having a player like Abe Valentine getting the ball to our big post players. We made a concerted effort to get the ball inside and Abe did a wonderful job of it.”
Valentine, who leads his team in both scoring and assists, said his team may have been too up for the game with the Phoenix.
“We were all excited for this game since we’re all friends with them (the Phoenix),” he said. “We had to slow down and calm down. We have to do that against pressure. This is a good team and if we do that we’ll get a lot of wins this season.”
Oberlin’s first loss came after five straight wins to open the season.
“They were more organized than we were tonight,” Russell said. “I think a loss like this is good for us to wake us up. We’re not good enough to just show up and play basketball.”
Contact Jim Jablonski at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.