The Pioneers stormed out to a 16-2 lead and pretty much just held their own from there. The win, Elyria’s 15th in 19 games, sets up a showdown Tuesday with North Royalton. The Bears, 16-2 overall, lead Lake Division play at 7-0 with the Pioneers right on their heels at 6-1.
“We started off good with an 8-0 run,” said senior Kody Bender, who scored 19 points to share scoring honors with Isaiah Walton. “But we let them come back a little bit. Some guys were thinking it’s too easy. We relaxed and didn’t play as hard.”
Perhaps Elyria’s 93-43 win over the Patriots (3-14, 2-6) the first time around had a little to do with the relaxed approach.
“We had a goal, we wanted to get four wins in a row,” said Elyria coach Brett Larrick, thinking ahead to Sunday’s tournament draw. “It wasn’t the prettiest. I think we got a little tentative. We only shot four free throws for the game. We had a real nice start and we sort of let up. It sets us up for Tuesday but we better play a heck of lot better with North Royalton coming in.”
With a win Tuesday, Elyria would be in line for its first conference title or co-title since the 1994-95 season. That came in the old Erie Shore when the Pioneers shared the crown with Sandusky.
“We’ve got Royalton on Tuesday and they just beat (Forge) by 40,” Bender said. “We’ve been looking forward to that game for the conference. It hasn’t been done in a long time. They got us at their place (58-45). It’s a big game for us.”
Elyria never did really put the Patriots away and Valley Forge coach John Ugan was happy about that.
“To be honest, I was very proud of the way we played,” he said. “With the injuries we’ve had, the illnesses, the ineligibilities — it was the same thing we had the first time we played (at Elyria). The thing was, our mental outlook on the game was much more positive.”
After Elyria grabbed that early cushion, it would have been easy for the Patriots to fold it up right there, but behind 18 points from Nik Postoloski, Valley Forge managed to pull within 44-35 midway through the third quarter.
Elyria forced 26 turnovers, but also committed 18, far too many if the Pioneers are to have a chance Tuesday.
“All our stuff is effort and attitude,” Larrick said. “Sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t. We’re still trying to find a little more consistency.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or at email@example.com.
Elyria 65, Valley Forge 45
ELYRIA (65): Kody Bender 8-0-19, Dontae Dukes 1-0-2, Isaiah Walton 4-4-19, Anthony Duckett 0-0-0, A.J. Johnson 2-0-4, Da’Jaun Glover 1-0-3, Jarred Schultz 2-0-4, Tavon Kurtz 2-0-4, Ronnie Smith 1-0-2, Hunter Parsh 1-0-3. Totals 25-4-60.
VALLEY FORGE (50): David Drum 3-0-7, Robert Schmidt 5-0-10, Larry Jackson 3-1-8, David Turner 0-0-0, Nik Postoloski 6-3-18, Jacob Stadalsky 1-0-2, Douglas Trunk 0-0-0, Jason Torres 0-0-0. Totals 18-4-45.
Elyria 18 18 15 9 — 60
Valley Forge 7 18 14 6 — 45
Three-point goals: Elyria 6-23 (Bender 3, Walton, Glover, Parsh), Valley Forge 5-11 (Postoloski 3, Drum, Jackson); Field goals: Elyria 25-58 (43 percent), Valley Forge 18-40 (45 percent); Free throws: Elyria 4-4 (100 percent), Valley Forge 4-6 (66 percent); Rebounds: Elyria 28 (Dukes 6), Valley Forge 23 (Jackson 8); Turnovers: Elyria 18, Valley Forge 26; Total fouls: Elyria 10, Valley Forge 9.
Junior varsity: Elyria, 76-36