ELYRIA — After surrendering Isaiah Walton’s opening-play alley-oop and his 3-point bomb that followed, Division III Oberlin settled down Friday night and put unbeaten Division I Elyria on the defensive.
The Phoenix nearly pulled off the upset of the season, before falling 62-44 in non-conference action. But ask anyone who saw it — the game was a lot closer than the score suggests.
Oberlin coach Kurt Russell thought so.
“I don’t think the scoreboard reflects how close the game was,” Russell said. “I think it was just one of those things where Elyria had a little more than we did tonight.”
Trailing 5-2, Oberlin went on an 11-0 run and held a lead for the next 19 minutes. The Phoenix led 16-14 after a quarter, 26-23 at halftime and didn’t fall behind again until 4:15 remained in the third quarter. With a steal and drive to the hoop, the Pioneers’ Ronnie Smith put Elyria up 33-32. It didn’t last long.
Oberlin took control 35-33, but Walton scored with the second of his four slam dunks to tie it at 35. The Pioneers took the lead for good, 38-35, on Kody Bender’s three foul shots after being knocked down shooting outside the arc.
There was 1:28 to go in the third quarter.
Oberlin cut the deficit to 44-41 two minutes into the fourth, but the Pioneers went on an 18-3 run to the final buzzer.
Eight of the points came on foul shots, four by Bender. And four points went up on Walton’s third and fourth dunks of the night.
His first, on a perfectly placed alley-oop pass from Smith, came less than 10 seconds into the game after he controlled the opening tip.
“We just put that play in recently and we decided that was going to be our first play of the game,” Walton said. “It worked, so I guess all our practice paid off. (Dunking) doesn’t just get me going, it gets our team going and we start playing good defense.”
Russell and his staff had the Phoenix (2-4) well prepared. He later said he did nothing special to get ready for the Pioneers (6-0).
“You know what, we thought we were just as good as Elyria,” he said. “We thought we had just as much talent, we just needed to play hard. I thought that for the first time all year, we played hard for four quarters.”
Bender said the Pioneers talked at halftime about improving defensively, among other topics.
“The first half, we didn’t come out and play defense like we usually do,” he said. “I think we were playing real selfish in the first half and we needed to play as a team. We talked about sharing the ball and running our sets.”
The part about being selfish offensively echoed Elyria coach Brett Larrick’s thoughts.
“They came to play and they came with some fire and intensity,” Larrick said. “Our first 2½ quarters were a result of yesterday’s practice. We weren’t as ready to play as we have been and it showed. I thought we were selfish in the first half and that’s not the way we want to play. The third and fourth quarters were more how we wanted to play.
“Give Oberlin credit. Scouting them and preparing for them, I knew it was going to be tough. That’s a good basketball team.”
Walton and Bender each scored two of Elyria’s five 3-pointers and led the scoring with 19 points apiece, despite Bender’s being held to three baskets on the night. But Oberlin gave him 11 free throws and he made them all. Smith, who finished with 12 points, scored the other three.
Oberlin’s Charles Lewis scored a team-high 12 points, including a 3-pointer in the second quarter. The Phoenix also got a three from Jason Moore — his only basket of the game — and one from Noland Isom. Oberlin got nine points from Dashaun Horton and seven each from Isom and Marcus Dailey.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elyria 62, Oberlin 44
OBERLIN (44): Marvin Jackson 0-0-0, Jason Moore 1-1-3, Demonte Taborn 1-1-3, Charles Lewis 5-4-15, Marcus Dailey 3-0-7, Noland Isom 3-0-7, DeVante Hougland 0-0-0, Dashaun Horton 4-1-9. Totals 17-7-44.
ELYRIA (62): Tavon Kurtz 0-1-1, Kody Bender 3-11-19, Hunter Parsh 1-0-2, Da’Jaun Glover 0-0-0, Dontae Dukes 2-1-5, Isaiah Walton 7-3-19, Anthony Duckett 0-2-2, Jarred Schultz 0-0-0, Trenell Oliver 0-0-0, Ronnie Smith 5-1-12, A.J. Johnson 1-0-2, Damon Stewart 0-0-0. Totals 19-19-62.
Oberlin 16 10 11 7 — 44
Elyria 14 9 18 21 — 62
3-point goals: Oberlin 3-8 (Isom, Dailey, Lewis); Elyria 5-15 (Walton 2, Bender 2, Smith). Field goals: Oberlin 17-49 (34.7 percent); Elyria 19-57 (33.3 percent). Free throws: Oberlin 7-15; Elyria 19-25. Rebounds: Oberlin 32; Elyria 32. Turnovers: Oberlin 18; Elyria 13. Fouled out: None.
Junior varsity: Elyria, 73-25.