ELYRIA — Avon came into Friday night’s West Shore Conference game against Elyria Catholic riding a wave of momentum.
The Panthers came in mired in a losing streak.
After three competitive quarters, the Eagles erupted for 31 fourth-quarter points to come away with a 73-58 victory and make sure those trends continued.
Avon won for the fourth straight time to improve to 5-10 overall, 3-7 in the league, while EC, losers of five straight, fell to 7-8, 4-6.
“This was a big game for us,” Avon coach Kevin Sapara said. “We haven’t played since last Friday due to the snowouts. … For us to come in here and keep playing well, especially to do some things well down the stretch, was really a testament to our kids’ hard work and the positive attitudes they’ve had throughout the year.”
A big boost for the Eagles in the second half was the play of junior guard Brian Kelly.
Kelly, who was 0-for-4 from the floor and held scoreless in the first half, scored 20 second-half points to lead all scorers. He shot 7-for-9 in the second half and went 4-for-8 from the free throw line.
Kelly’s first bucket, a 3-pointer with 6:12 left in the third quarter, helped snap a 9-0 EC run and tied the game at 31. His second three with 7:20 left in the game capped an 11-0 run that put the Eagles in control, 47-38, and set the stage for a high-scoring final eight minutes.
Kelly scored seven of those 11 points, and had 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“We told him at halftime to just relax and don’t force anything,” Sapara said. “He wasn’t forcing anything in the first half, but a lot of teams focus on him so he might not have been getting the looks he wanted. But he started taking it to the basket and getting some easy layups to get him going a little bit.
“He hit that 3-pointer that seemed to get him going. He’s been a great player for us all year, not just offensively, but he also did a great job doubling down on Holley, getting a couple steals down the stretch that were huge for us.”
Kelly’s final points capped an 11-4 run which gave Avon a 63-54 lead with 1:41 remaining. The deficit proved to be too much for the Panthers to overcome, thanks to Avon’s 6-for-7 performance from the line over the final minute.
“I didn’t really attack in the first half,” Kelly said. “In the second half, I attacked more. At first, I kind of settled for jump shots. But once I got going inside, the outside opened up for me.”
Sophomore Jeff Laraway added 14 points and a team-best nine rebounds. Also for Avon, Zach Torbert finished with 13, while Mike Smigel finished with 12, giving it four starters in double figures.
“At halftime, we were up one (26-25) and they came out and hit two threes to go up five,” Sapara said. “We took a timeout and we told them that it was a game of runs and there was a lot of game left to play. I was proud of our guys to fight back and make it close going into the fourth quarter.”
Holley finished with 19 points and a game-high 20 rebounds for the Panthers, but it wasn’t enough to snap his team’s losing streak.
“Brian Kelly came alive,” EC coach Phil Kuchta said. “We held him scoreless in the first half and he wound up with 20. The kids have got to decide to play defense and step up and get stops. It’s not like they did anything special to get him the ball — he brought the ball up, he took our guys to the basket and we fouled him in the process.
“We must have had six or seven times down the stretch where we got beat defensively. To me, that’s the ball game. I give Avon a lot of credit. They’re playing very well. We knew they were hot coming in. But I thought our guys played like a bunch of individuals and not as a team, especially in the second half.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Avon 73, Elyria Catholic 58
AVON (73): Brian Kelly 7-4-20, Jeff Laraway 5-2-14, Zach Torbert 5-3-13, Mike Smigel 2-6-12, Will Ybarra 4-0-8, Dan Durrin 1-1-3, Brad Sprecher 1-0-3, Jordan Lawrence 0-0-0, Chris Maxwell 0-0-0. Totals 25-16-73.
ELYRIA CATHOLIC (58): Jeremy Holley 6-7-19, Jacob Kuchta 5-0-12, Ceeven Shelton 4-2-10, Conner Riddell 1-2-5, D.J. Graham 1-2-4, James Tirbaso 2-0-4, Kevin Kelley 1-0-3, Angelo Cruz 0-1-1, Drew Kaplan 0-0-0, Darin Guice 0-0-0. Totals 20-14-58.
Avon 13 13 16 31 — 73
Elyria Catholic 9 16 13 20 — 58
Three-point goals: Avon 7-20 (Kelly 2, Smigel 2, Sprecher, Laraway), Elyria Catholic 4-24 (Kelley, Riddell, Kuchta 2). Field goals: Avon 25-55 (45 percent), Elyria Catholic 20-57 (35 percent). Free throws: Avon 16-26 (62 percent), Elyria Catholic 14-18 (78 percent). Rebounds: Avon 41 (Laraway 12, Ybarra 9), Elyria Catholic 43 (Holley 20, Shelton 9). Turnovers: Avon 11, Elyria Catholic 14. Total fouls: Avon 18, Elyria Catholic 23. Fouled out: Ybarra.
Junior varsity: Elyria Catholic, 51-29