AVON LAKE — Olmsted Falls had few problems during the first half against Avon Lake, had plenty of them in the third quarter but found a way to right the ship down the stretch.
The Bulldogs’ strong perimeter defense limited the Shoremen’s two talented guards — Seth Muck and Christian Jones — early and weathered a strong second-half rally to come away with a 46-33 Southwestern Conference victory Friday night.
The swarming defense shut down Avon Lake’s offense to give the Bulldogs a 21-11 lead at the half. The Shoremen scored 19 points in the third quarter — they scored 14 in the other three quarters combined — and briefly grabbed the lead, but a three-point fourth quarter allowed Olmsted Falls to again take command.
While the game wasn’t pretty for either team, each continued on its recent trend — the Bulldogs (10-2, 4-1 SWC) won their fifth in a row, while Avon Lake dropped to 3-8 and 1-4.
“We focused on those two guys early and I was pleased with how we handled them,” Olmsted Falls coach Chris DeLisio said. “For such a poor offensive game that we played, I told the guys I was happy with our defense. If we play defense like that, we can survive bad offensive nights.”
Led by James Sabatka, the Bulldogs guards locked up Jones and Muck in the first half, with that duo only accounting for a single basket. The Bulldogs scored seven of the final eight of the half, including five from Sabatka, to gain the 10-point lead.
But the Shoremen handled the Bulldogs press better after halftime — Avon Lake committed 12 first-half turnovers, many of which led to transition baskets for the Bulldogs.
And while the Shoremen like to get out and run themselves, coach Eric Smith decided to adjust, switching to a 1-1-3 zone that befuddled the Bulldogs’ offense. They scored only two points in the first five minutes of the third, while Avon Lake — led by Muck and Jones — scored the first eight and 11 of the first 13 to trim the deficit.
“The zone changed the game,” Smith said. “We can play a similar style than Falls likes to play, but sometimes you have to make adjustments and as you saw it worked.”
The Shoremen took a 27-26 lead on Jones’ 3-pointer at the 1:31 mark. But the Bulldogs, who go 11 deep, got key contributions from two quiet guys — Kevin Meehan and Ryan Sosic — who scored the final seven of the quarter to give Olmsted Falls a 33-30 edge.
“Each of us goes hard in practice and that’s why each of us trusts each other when it’s our turn in the game,” said Sosic, who is a captain as a junior and a skilled post man despite being undersized (6-feet-1). “Those were big baskets — we’re taught to stay the course and if they hit contested shots, don’t get down. I thought we handled their comeback well.”
Olmsted Falls’ Adam Asadorian hit a three to begin the fourth, and after Brad Hamilton cut the lead to 36-32, the next three minutes proved critical. The Shoremen sat in their zone for nearly two minutes before coming out of it to pressure Olmsted Falls, and that worked, forcing two consecutive turnovers. But Avon Lake failed to convert easy buckets on each occasion, and later saw a potential three-point play nullified by a charge call.
“That stretch was crucial,” Smith said. “We did everything we wanted to do, especially in the second half, except put the ball in the basket.”
The Shoremen made 13 of 37 shots from the floor (35 percent), and only four of 16 free throws. The Bulldogs weren’t all that much better, making 15 of 41 attempts from the floor (39 percent).
Jones led Avon Lake with 13, while Alex Mitchell scored 11 for Olmsted Falls.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olmsted Falls 46, Avon Lake 33
OLMSTED FALLS (46): Alex Mitchell 4-1-11, Adam Asadorian 1-2-5, James Sabatka 3-3-9, Brian Kurz 1-0-2, Nick Fritz 1-0-3, Ryan Sosic 3-0-6, Kevin Meehan 3-4-10. Totals 16-10-46.
AVON LAKE (33): Jason Hessel 2-0-4, Luke Harris 0-1-1, Christian Jones 5-0-13, Jace Russell 2-0-4, Seth Muck 1-0-2, Brad Hamilton 3-3-9. Totals 13-4-33.
Olmsted Falls 10 11 12 13 — 46
Avon Lake 6 5 19 3 — 33
Three-point goals: Olmsted Falls 4-15 (Mitchell 2, Asadorian, Fritz), Avon Lake 3-16 (Jones 3). Field goals: Olmsted Falls 16-41 (39 percent), Avon Lake 13-37 (35 percent). Free throws: Olmsted Falls 10-19 (53 percent), Avon Lake 4-16 (25 percent). Rebounds: Olmsted Falls 30 (Mitchell 9), Avon Lake 25 (Jones, Hamilton 5). Total fouls: Olmsted Falls 15, Avon Lake 16. Turnovers: Olmsted Falls 14, Avon Lake 15. Fouled out: None.