By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
With the Division II tournament draw days away, the Edgewood boys knew that Tuesday’s matchup at Riverside could be very meaningful toward that end. That’s one reason they are quite pleased with their 61-58 non-conference victory.
The Warriors used 47.1 percent shooting (24 of 51) while holding Riverside to 30.0 percent (18 of 60), and was able to keep the advantage from the early part of the second quarter through the end. The Beavers (8-8, 7-3 in the Premier Athletic Conference) had a chance to erase a six-point deficit in the final 40 seconds, but misfired on two 3-point attempts to tie.
“The kids really worked hard tonight,” Edgewood coach John Bowler said. ”They know how important this game is to us going into our tournament draw Sunday. (It means a lot) to beat a Division I school; it’s going to be real good for us in the draw.”
“I think we need to become a smarter basketball team,” Riverside coach Adam May said. “I told the guys it didn’t come down to the last possession. You could have lost it on the first possession, too.”
The Warriors (12-6) recovered immediately from Riverside’s 8-0 run to begin the game with an eight-point run of their own. But it was close the rest of the way; as Austin Carr would say, the Beavers were never able to break through “the wall.”
“This is the second straight game we opened the game just going at guys — just driving it down their throats,” May said. “Getting to the rim, getting to the free-throw line. But then we go away from it.”
“Our beginning of games are funny for us,” Bowler said. “Either we come out real, real good or real, real bad. There’s no in-between.”
Edgewood’s margin peaked at eight when it opened the second half with four points to make it 37-29. But Riverside answered with four, and from that point on the lead varied between one and six points.
That one-point deficit occurred in the waning seconds. After Andrew Konczal (17 points, 9 rebounds) and Connor McLaughlin (15 points, 5 assists) each split two free throws for the Warriors, they held a 59-53 lead with 38 seconds left. But after Brad Rinella (8 boards, 4 assists) rebounded a teammate’s missed shot, Adam Hockman (24 points including 4 triples) was fouled trying tyo shoot a 3-pointer, and made all three shots. Edgewood then threw the ball away, and Hockman worked his way for a basket to cut it to 59-58 with 17.6 seconds remaining.
However, McLaughlin hit two foul shots four seconds later. The Beavers had a chance to tie, but Rinella and Jordan Aiken both missed tries for treys in the waning seconds.
“We did not shoot the ball well tonight,” May said. “We didn’t have confidence. (Our shots) weren’t in rhythm. They looked to make a play before they took the shot.
“I quizzed the guys after the game. I said, ‘What’s the best way to create confidence?’ The answer is preparation. If you prepare, you have confidence. If you study for a test and you walk in, you (know you can) do this. If you’re not ready, you second-guess yourself with everything.”
May identified Hockman as an exception to that rule in this game.
“The kids played hard.” Bowler said. “They hung in there. I thought for a second that we were going to lose it, but they kept their composure, and every time they scored, we answered.”
Joey Zappitelli scored 11 points including three 3-pointers off the bench for Edgewood, and added four steals. Teammate Louie Wisnyai scored all nine of his points in the first half and pulled down seven rebounds. He had foul problems in the second half.
“(Konczal and McLaughlin) have been consistent all season,” Bowler said. “And I think Joey Zappitelli came off the bench and did a really nice job defensively. He did everything I asked him to do. He’s definitely a big contributor to the team.”
Chadler Smith scored nine of his 11 points after the break for the Beavers, but struggled with fouls and eventuially fouled out. Teammate Jared Nalepa ( 2 blocked shots) also had struggles with fouls and exited with his fifth. Edgewood’s Matt Fitchet missed a lot of time with fouls also.
Maxx Brubaker put in six of his nine points in the first quarter for Riverside.
“I don’t think that we have guys that think the game,” May said. “But when we do, we’re good – really good.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress this year. And I still think we have time to make a lot more.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.