The Panthers had trimmed a 12-point deficit to four points when John Sturza scored off a pass from Cory Strasko with 4:46 to go in the period.
Even better for EC? Two Rocky River starters were saddled with four fouls.
Then it all soured.
The Panthers’ offense deserted them and Rocky River went on to a 56-42 victory to eliminate Elyria Catholic from the conference championship race.
EC (10-10, 7-6 WSC) was just 6-of-26 from the field in the second half. The Panthers failed to score the rest of the third quarter after Sturza’s layup made it 34-30.
“Our offense was standing around a lot, but Rocky River’s defense was pushing us out of the way,” EC coach Jason Smith said. “We’ve had teams come at us with a lot of pressure before, but we didn’t handle the pressure we got tonight. Rocky River is a very disciplined team, both on offense and on defense.”
The four-point difference in the middle of the third quarter was as close as the Panthers had come to Rocky River (11-8, 9-2) since the score was 14-10 to begin the second period. The Pirates answered with a 3-point basket by Pat Connors at 3:14 of the third quarter and a tip-in from Alec Hallal, who reached over two EC rebounders to score.
“They hit a dagger 3-pointer by their point guard (Connors) right when we thought we had them in our grasp,” Smith said. “Then they come down and get a rebound basket, and so it’s back to a nine-point lead like it was nothing. That’s the kind of discipline they have.”
The Pirates alleviated the foul troubles of starters Michael Dickey and Thomas McNamara, both of whom had four by the first three minutes of the second half, with outstanding efforts by two substitutes — Hallal and Alex Schade.
Hallal scored three baskets off offensive rebounds and was the game’s top rebounder with eight. Schade tied for the game’s high scorer with 11 points and was high with four assists.
“The bench was a big key,” Rocky River coach Michael Murray said. “They played well and played hard. Schade was very aggressive on offense and Hallal did a great job on the boards. They helped a lot when we ran into that foul trouble.”
The Panthers led only once — 5-2 early in the first quarter. Rocky River went on a 10-1 run to grab the lead for good and had as much as a 12-point advantage in the first half.
The Pirates put the finishing touch on the victory by outscoring EC 7-2 in a 1:30 stretch of the last quarter. Rocky River was ahead 51-36 with 3:30 remaining.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rocky River 56, Elyria Catholic 42
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (42): Cory Strasko 1-0-2, Dan Whitacre 3-3-9, Tyler Riddell 3-3-11, John Sturza 3-1-7, Ceeven Shelton 2-5-9, D.J. Graham 0-0-0, Conner Riddell 1-0-2, Xavier Bennett 1-0-2. Totals 14-12-42.
ROCKY RIVER (56): Ryan McCrone 4-0-11, Pat Connors 2-3-8, Richard Bremkamp 2-2-6, Michael Dickey 1-0-2, Tom McNamara 4-0-8, Kevin Hervey 0-1-1, Alex Schade 4-1-11, Alec Hallal 3-0-6, Bernard Frohnapple 1-1-3, Mitchell Williams 0-0-0, Alex Thieling 0-0-0. Totals 21-8-56.
Elyria Catholic 10 12 8 12 — 42
Rocky River 14 17 9 16 — 56
Three-point goals: Elyria Catholic 2-14 (T. Riddell 2), Rocky River 6-14 (McCrone 3, Schade 2, Connors); Field goals: Elyria Catholic 14-44 (31.8 percent), Rocky River 21-41 (51.2 percent); Free throws: Elyria Catholic 12-21 (57.1 percent), Rocky River 8-18 (44.4 percent); Rebounds: Elyria Catholic 18 (Whitacre, Sturza 5), Rocky River 33 (Hallal 8); Turnovers: Elyria Catholic 13, Rocky River 19; Total fouls: Elyria Catholic 19, Rocky River 22.
Junior varsity: Elyria Catholic, 51-42