ELYRIA — Casey Smith scored 21 points and James Willbond nailed a career-high six 3-point baskets as Firelands rolled over Open Door on Tuesday night in non-conference action.
The Falcons (1-1) pulled away in the second half to win, 70-53. The Patriots stayed close in the first half, but couldn’t keep up with Firelands’ 45 percent field-goal shooting in the second half. The Falcons shot 42.4 percent for the game, nearly 40 percent (10-26) from outside the arc.
It was a welcome comeback for Firelands, after a season-opening loss to Amherst. Smith said the Falcons improved, in part, because they were more focused.
“We’ve been more focused in practice and we’ve worked hard,” he said. “Coach (Brett Bartlett) said these would be hard because they’re tough athletes and they wouldn’t be easy. They pressured us the first half, but we started out the third quarter pretty well.”
For Willbond, the 3-point shooter, his previous high was four in a game. He said he works on his 3-point shooting a lot.
“In the gym, I’m always shooting threes, and at home,” he said. “Always.”
He added the major difference between Tuesday’s win and the loss to Amherst was defense.
“Definitely defense,” he said. “We played really good defense tonight, and (Bartlett) emphasizes rebounding a lot. We do rebounding drills in practice and I think we rebounded pretty well tonight.”
The Patriots (0-2) trailed by a point until Willbond hit his first 3-pointer late in the first quarter, following up a pair Smith made in the period. But Firelands began to widen the gap in the second quarter — 33-21 at one point — before Open Door put together an 8-3 run.
The Patriots cut the deficit to 36-29 at the break, following a nine-point second quarter by post Andrew Patterson. Patterson is one of eight juniors on an Open Door roster that includes just one senior, Cory Kushinski.
Firelands put the game out of reach with a 22-point third quarter that saw Willbond sink three more 3-pointers and Smith score seven points. Still, the Patriots got threes from J.P. Miraldi and Zach Thomas, and Danny Stintsman scored five of his 10 total points. But despite that, they trailed by 15 points going into the fourth.
In the final eight minutes, the Falcons ran a motion offense designed to take time off the clock while looking for easy baskets. They made just two field goals in the period, including Smith’s fourth 3-pointer, but took advantage of seven of 12 free throw attempts.
“I think just having those first-game jitters out of the way helped tonight,” said Bartlett, a former Keystone sharpshooter. “I think we were focused coming over here tonight. I thought we had good energy and good focus.
“But give Open Door credit,” he said. “They have some good players and a good inside presence. They gave us everything we could handle. What won the game for us was our defense. We really stepped it up there in the second quarter.”
Open Door coach Todd Wright said the Falcons’ shooting made a big difference.
“Obviously, they can shoot the ball,” he said. “They gave us some problems with their press. They broke it and knocked down those shots. I think they were definitely ready for the second half. They made those (long-distance) shots. Those were shots we were willing to give them and they came in and knocked them down.”
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firelands 70, Open Door 53
FIRELANDS (70): James Willbond 6-1-19, Logan Sittinger 2-2-6, Cole Sklarek 2-1-5, Brad Deremiah 0-0-0, Jack O’Keefe 0-1-1, Casey Smith 7-3-21, Thaddeus Gonzalez 0-0-0, Johnny Sigsworth 3-1-7, Jordan Ruffner 0-0-0, Colin Myers 2-1-5, Cory Peters 3-0-6. Totals 25-10-70.
OPEN DOOR (53): Jamir Moultrie 0-0-0, Caleb Crowder 0-2-2, Drew Zaborowski 0-2-2, J.P. Miraldi 3-0-9, Dannjy Stintsman 4-2-10, Zach Thomas 3-0-9, Andrew Patterson 8-5-21, Cory Kushinski 0-0-0, Totals 18-11-53.
Firelands 17 19 22 12 — 70
Open Door 13 16 14 10 — 53
Three-point goals: Firelands 10-26 (38.5 percent) Willbond 6, Smith 4; Open Door 6-30 (20 percent) Thomas 3, Miraldi 3. Field goals: Firelands 25-59 (42.4 percent); Open Door 18-64 (28.1 percent). Free throws: Firelands 10-20; Open Door 11-15. Rebounds: Firelands 38; Open Door 28. Turnovers: Firelands 12; Open Door 17. Junior varsity: Firelands, 55-22