ELYRIA — AJ Johnson came off the bench to provide the spark Elyria needed Saturday night.
Johnson scored nine of his 16 points and grabbed four of his five rebounds in a key second quarter as Elyria won 66-59 on Alumni night at the Pioneer gym.
Elyria (7-3) trailed after one quarter but Johnson’s hustle and effort inside helped give the Pioneers a lead they never relinquished in the early moments of the second quarter. Elyria outscored the Rangers 18-9 over the eight minutes.
“I was just trying to get our team ready to go,” said Johnson, who hustled to tip in one of his own free throw misses to put Elyria in front 16-15. “Coach told me I have to rebound more. I’ve been trying to do that lately.”
“AJ played really well,” Elyria coach Brett Larrick said. “Gave us a spark. He does everything that we work on.”
Elyria had to be a big favorite coming in, but North Ridgeville (3-7) competed right from the opening tip. Had it not been for Elyria’s 12-6 run midway through the second quarter, the Rangers might have pulled off the upset. Seven of North Ridgeville’s 18 turnovers came in the quarter.
Isaiah Walton had a steady game for the Pioneers, finishing with 23 points and eight rebounds while going nine-of-nine from the foul line. Jarred Schultz added 12 points and seven boards.
“We did a nice job of handling the pressure and sticking to our game plan,” North Ridgeville coach Bryan Morgan said. “We wanted to make sure it was a half-court game and not a full-court game. It’s one of those games on the schedule where you hope you can compete.”
For the most part, the Rangers did just that. Six-foot-6 senior Nolan Freeman had a career night — hitting all but one of his nine shots from the floor, including a 3-pointer. He also sank all seven of his free throws for 24 points to go along with his team-high 10 rebounds.
“It was by far the best game he’s ever played,” Morgan said of Freeman. “I’m proud of him. He struggled at times last year, but this year he’s been consistent. He stepped up and had a great game.”
Dennis Millgard helped out with 14 points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to reduce the final margin.
“Give Bryan credit,” Larrick said. “His kids played extremely hard. They do a lot of things the right way. They were very aggressive.”
PIONEER PRIDE: Elyria held its second annual alumni night and welcomed back about 20 former players and coaches, including its first All-Ohio selection — Lee Johnson from the state-tournament team of 1961.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria 66, North Ridgeville 59
NORTH RIDGEVILLE (59): Matt Clark 2-2-7, Demario McCall 1-0-2, Dennis Millgard 5-2-14, Tyler Arnold 1-0-2, Nolan Freeman 8-7-24, Jacob Ruoff 0-0-0, Chad Kisel 1-0-2, Nathan Colbert 1-1-3, Jordan Montgomery 2-1-5, Collin Sullinger 0-0-0. Totals 21-13-59.
ELYRIA (66): Hunter Parsh 0-1-1, Isaiah Walton 6-9-23, Anthony Duckett 2-1-6, Jarred Schultz 5-2-12, AJ Johnson 7-2-16, Ronnie Smith 1-3-6, Trenell Oliver 1-0-2, Marquise Dalton 0-0-0, Chris Jamison 0-0-0. Totals 22-18-66.
North Ridgeville 13 9 16 21 — 59
Elyria 12 18 15 21 — 66
Three-point goals: North Ridgeville 4-13 (Millgard 2, Clark, Freeman), Elyria 4-11 (Walton 2, Duckett, Smith). Field goals: North Ridgeville 21-43 (49 percent), Elyria 22-47 (47 percent). Free throws: North Ridgeville 13-17 (76 percent), Elyria 18-28 (64 percent). Rebounds: North Ridgeville 27 (Freeman 10), Elyria 28 (Walton 8). Turnovers: North Ridgeville 18, Elyria 11. Fouls: North Ridgeville 20, Elyria 20. Intentional foul: Clark. Fouled out: Clark, Johnson.
Junior varsity: North Ridgeville, 40-33