ELYRIA — How do you deal with an athletic, 6-foot-8 sophomore star?
That was the dilemma facing the Elyria Pioneers on Friday in a key Northeast Ohio River Division game against defending champ North Royalton.
Turns out, the Pioneers really didn’t have an answer. At least not when it mattered most.
Omari Spellman led the Bears to a 59-52 win as North Royalton scored the game’s final 11 points to steal the victory and give the Bears a huge leg up in the division race. Spellman scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds — six of the points and five of the boards coming down the stretch.
Elyria had rallied from a 46-38 deficit late in the third quarter, sparked by a buzzer-beating NBA-like 3-pointer by Ronnie Smith to end the quarter and another 3-pointer by Hunter Parsh to start the fourth.
Baskets by Isaiah Walton and Jarred Schultz gave Elyria a 48-46 lead. Walton and Schultz hit back-to-back buckets around a pair of Spellman free throws to push the lead to 52-48 midway through the fourth quarter.
“Couple tough breaks but give them credit,” Elyria coach Brett Larrick said. “(North Royalton) simply made more plays then we did. We’re up four, we turn it over and we don’t get the shot we wanted. We had a couple go in-and-out. They go down and execute.”
Spellman’s slam off a backside lob from Mario Guinn put the Bears up 54-52 with 1:30 to play. The Pioneers had a number of good looks at the basket in the final moments but the ball wouldn’t go in.
“With four minutes to go, we called time out,” North Royalton coach Tim Matus said. “We were kind of steady after that, made some plays and got some stops.
It could have gone either way but towards the end, we made some plays.”
The consistent presence of Spellman inside was a huge difference. Spellman blocked or altered a number of Elyria shots and seemed to deliver whenever North Royalton needed a big shot or rebound.
“We executed,” Matus said. “(Elyria) was running some zone and we ran a lob play for (Spellman). Obviously, that was a big play for us. It put us in the lead but we still needed to get some stops after that. Nick Woods (18 points) and Logan (Chuppa) are the captains. They came up big for us.”
“That play’s not what beat us,” said Larrick of Spellman’s slam. “Little plays throughout the game. We’re up two at half and all of a sudden they’re up eight. We had no intensity, no pressure. It was not a great start to the second half.”
Walton led the way for the Pioneers with 17 points, scoring many on hard drives to the hoop. He drew a number of fouls early and cashed in on seven of eight free throws in the second quarter. However, Elyria didn’t get to the line in the second half. North Royalton hit on five of six foul shots, four coming from Spellman.
Parsh and Schultz each scored 11 for Elyria with Parsh warming up with a trio of 3-pointers that helped the Pioneers rally from the eight-point deficit. Schultz added eight rebounds.
* Elyria will host its annual alumni night tonight as North Ridgeville visits the Pioneers gym. All former EHS players are invited to attend.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
North Royalton 59, Elyria 52
NORTH ROYALTON (59): Nick Woods 7-0-18, Mario Guinn 0-0-0, Henry Meinberg 2-1-5, Logan Chuppa 3-1-9, Omari Spellman 9-4-22, Bryan Bielak 0-0-0, Brandon Lapeus 0-0-0, Alex Kuchta 1-0-2, Andrew Hartman 1-0-3. Totals 23-6-59.
ELYRIA (52): Hunter Parsh 4-0-11, Isaiah Walton 5-7-17, Anthony Duckett 1-0-2, Jarred Schultz 5-0-11, AJ Johnson 2-0-4, Ronnie Smith 2-0-5, Trenell Oliver 0-0-0, Marquise Dalton 1-0-2. Totals 20-7-52.
North Royalton 12 12 22 13 — 59
Elyria 12 14 15 11 — 52
Three-point goals: North Royalton 7-17 (Woods 4, Chuppa 2, Hartman), Elyria 5-18 (Parsh 3, Schultz, Smith). Field goals: North Royalton 23-47 (49 percent), Elyria 20-44 (45 percent). Free throws: North Royalton 6-11 (54.5 percent), Elyria 7-9 (77 percent). Rebounds: North Royalton 32 (Spellman 12), Elyria 28 (Schultz 8). Turnovers: North Royalton 16, Elyria 17. Fouls: North Royalton 10, Elyria 13.
Junior varsity: North Royalton, 55-39.