AVON LAKE — With his team down by four points and under 20 seconds left Tuesday night, Avon Lake sophomore Seth Muck split the top of a Brecksville zone defense the Shoremen hadn’t yet solved.
He found an open Zach Scott on the right wing, and Scott’s 3-pointer went in — and then rattled out.
So close. So much like the Shoremen’s recent luck.
Avon Lake battled Southwestern Conference-leading Brecksville, but for the fifth time in six games lost, with each defeat coming in the final seconds. The Bees hit three of four free throws in the final 12 seconds to seal a
“The difference between a win and loss was that Brecksville was able to make a few plays,” said Avon Lake coach Eric Smith, whose team on Friday rallied from a 21-point third-quarter deficit only to lose on a 3-pointer at the buzzer to North Olmsted. “I couldn’t fault our effort; with the way we’ve lost some games, we could have just bagged it. But we didn’t. We made some adjustments and stayed in it.”
The Shoremen (5-7, 3-5) still had a chance after Scott’s near miss. Down three with 4.8 seconds left, Avon Lake played a Bees inbounds pass perfectly, forcing Brecksville’s Tom Tupa — a highly regarded quarterback — to throw a high-risk pass downcourt. But the Bees’ Danilo Radjen outjumped Avon Lake’s Logan Dilik and was fouled to provide the final margin.
Most frustrating for Smith and his team was that they solved some usual problems, namely free throw shooting (13-of-17) and turnovers (only three). Plus, their 1-3-1 trap rattled the Bees — who improved to 9-3 and 6-1 in SWC play — as the visitors committed 11 turnovers.
But the Shoremen couldn’t buy a basket. They shot 14-of-46 (30 percent), including 4-of-22 from 3-point range as the Bees’ 2-3 zone limited Avon Lake’s shots mostly to the perimeter. And for all the good the Shoremen halfcourt trap did, it offered the Bees opportunities for second-chance points. Brecksville converted buzzer-beaters at the end of the second and third quarters on putbacks created by the Shoremen’s extended defense, shots that slowed Avon Lake’s momentum.
“Brecksville’s an outstanding team, and they were able to knock their shots down,” Smith said of Brecksville’s 17-of-36 shooting. “And we didn’t do a good enough job rebounding, but we had to go after the ball (by trapping).”
And as is Avon Lake opponents’ custom, the Bees’ Tim Tupa clung to go-to man Eric Stuczynski, who scored 35 for the Shoremen on Friday. Stuczynski was 4-of-12 from the field for 12 points on Tuesday, while Jimmy Hessell chipped in 10. Sophomore big man Ben Oxley, in his first varsity action of the season, contributed four points and generally solid action for Avon Lake.
Smith called Stuczynski the “most beat-up player in Northeast Ohio” for the pounding he takes as opponents’ focal point each game.
“Our main goal was to limit him, and he didn’t have good looks but still had 12 points,” said Brecksville coach Steve Mihalik, whose club was missing starters Bryan Willey (concussion) and Sam Swenton (illness). “That kid is a really good basketball player.
“Winning is hard, and that’s why a lot of teams don’t do it.”
Brecksville 50, Avon Lake 45
BRECKSVILLE (50): Paul Karthan 1-0-2, Danilo Radjen 4-5-14, Tom Tupa 3-0-6, Mark Chrzanowski 2-4-8, Matt Csuhran 4-1-10, Tim Tupa 2-3-8, Mike Tyler 1-0-2. Totals 17-13-50.
AVON LAKE (45): Seth Muck 1-2-5, Logan Dilik 2-2-8, Jimmy Hessell 3-4-10, Eric Stuczynski 4-3-12, Brandon Murway 3-0-6, Ben Oxley 1-2-4. Totals 14-13-45.
Brecksville 21 7 10 12 — 50
Avon Lake 11 11 10 13 — 45
Three-point goals: Brecksville 3 (Radjen, Csuharn, Tim Tupa), Avon Lake 4 (Muck, Dilik 2, Stuczynski). Field goals: Brecksville 17-36 (47 percent), Avon Lake 14-46 (30 percent). Free throws: Brecksville 13-26 (50 percent), Avon Lake 13-17 (76 percent). Rebounds: Brecksville 37 (Tom Tupa 10), Avon Lake 23 (Stuczynski 5). Turnovers: Brecksville 12, Avon Lake 3.
Junior varsity: Brecksville, 33-29.
Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or email@example.com.