And while the Shoremen will certainly remember the experience, they’ll take a few regrets back to Lorain County from downtown Cleveland.
Strongsville beat Avon Lake 55-52 on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena by scoring the final five points over the last minute after the Shoremen had climbed back from a 14-point third-quarter deficit.
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Brad Hamilton scored inside for Avon Lake with under a minute to go, capping a 7-0 run that put the Shoremen ahead, 52-50 — their first lead since it was 8-7. But the Mustangs’ John McNelis put back a teammate’s miss to tie it and set the stage for a dramatic last sequence: Avon Lake’s Jimmy Hessel pushed the ball after McNelis’ bucket, but missed after contact inside with a Mustang. Hessel hit the deck, and the Mustangs ran out with numbers, the ball finding Josh Richissin in the corner for a three that proved to be the game-winner.
Avon Lake’s Christian Jones — who’d already made four 3-pointers despite a leg injury that bothered him for much of the second half — missed a contested three with under five seconds left, and Hessel’s rebound and kickout was intercepted.
“I wasn’t happy with a lot of things,” said Avon Lake coach Eric Smith, who said he’d wished he’d have called timeout as Hessel drove late. “We battled back in the second half and did some good things, but for a long time we didn’t defend and played with no emotion.”
The Mustangs certainly had something to do with the outcome. They improved to just 3-18 — they call the rugged Northeast Ohio Conference home, with area powers Mentor, Shaker Heights and Garfield Heights on their slate — but looked little like a three-win team in the first half, shooting 12-of-21 from the field and 6-of-9 from 3-point range in building a 34-23 edge at the break.
The Mustangs widened that lead to 14 on two occasions in the third on threes by Drew Robertson and Alex Barnes, but the Shoremen slowly chipped away. A 9-0 run, including seven by Hamilton, cut the Strongsville edge to 40-35, though the Mustangs quickly pushed it back to nine and led by seven after three quarters.
Avon Lake, though, held Strongsville scoreless for the first 4:49 of the fourth, cutting the lead to 46-45 in that stretch on the strength of another Jones three. Strongsville again answered with two straight baskets for a 50-45 edge, but Avon Lake scored the next seven, from Hessel, Jones and Hamilton, to set up the final sequence.
“We played a much better team game in the second half; we really hustled, but just fell short a little bit,” said Hamilton, who along with Jones scored 13 points. “Strongsville played well in the first half, but we played a role in that by not playing the way we needed to play.”
Strongsville 55, Avon Lake 52
AVON LAKE (52): Jason Hessel 0-1-1, Jake Aiello 1-1-3, Christian Jones 4-1-13, Jimmy Hessel 4-1-9, Mitch Gabanic 0-1-1, Jace Russell 1-0-2, Seth Muck 4-2-10, Brad Hamilton 5-3-13. Totals: 19-10-52.
STRONGSVILLE (55): Josh Richissin 3-0-7, Drew Robertson 3-0-9, Tom Krokey 6-0-14, Kyle Meehan 2-4-8, John McNelis 3-0-7, Alex Barnes 2-0-6, Brandon Bailey 1-2-4. Totals 20-6-55.
Avon Lake 12 11 16 13 — 52
Strongsville 15 19 12 9 — 55
Three-point goals: Avon Lake 4 (Jones 4), Strongsville 9 (Richissin, Robertson 3, Krokey 2, McNelis, Barnes 2); Field goals: Avon Lake 19-55 (35 percent), Strongsville 20-44 (45 percent); Free throws: Avon Lake 10-21 (48 percent), Strongsville 6-8 (75 percent); Rebounds: Avon Lake 31 (Jimmy Hessel 8), Strongsville 32 (Bailey 7); Turnovers: Avon Lake 12, Strongsville 19; Total fouls: Avon Lake 10, Strongsville 16; Fouled out: None.
Junior varsity: Strongsville, 38-37.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or email@example.com.