By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
Having just given up the go-ahead basket, Austin Hess wanted the ball as the clock ticked down in overtime.
Hess got what he wanted, and made good on it. His 3-point basket came from deep on the left wing as the clock expired, lifting Riverside to a 52-50 win over visiting Lakeside on Friday.
“Down on the defensive end, my guy scored,” Hess, a junior guard, said. “During the timeout, I wanted the ball back so I could score and give my team the W.”
Jaeden Jones (13 points including 3 treys) had taken the ball into the lane and hit a shot, giving the Dragons (4-9, 3-5 in the Premier Athletic Conference) a 50-49 lead. The Beavers (3-9, 3-4) then called a timeout with 6.4 seconds on the clock to set up the winning play.
“We finally had something go our way,” Riverside coach Adam May said. “You look at our season and what we’ve had to go through — that was our first home game since Nov. 30. So you look at the things we’ve been through, the things we’ve done, the teams we’ve played — we’ve played 3 teams that have won state championships in the last 5 years — that’s a gauntlet of a schedule.
“And we finally got something to bend our way, and that’s something that is just a springboard for a season. We’re not a 2-9 basketball team or a 3-9 basketball team; we’re better than that.”
As Lakeside coach Jim Hood attested, the ending was reminiscent of the one that took place 2 weeks earlier at South, when Braun Hartfield also nailed a long 3-pointer from the left side of the floor in a 56-53 Rebel win over the Dragons.
“What we wanted to do was keep them in front of us, and let them take that last shot,” Hood said. “We felt that it was a long shot. The guy was on him; he hit a good shot.”
Riverside inbounded the ball from the Lakeside baseline to begin the play. Brad Rinella threw to Hess, who unloaded from long range.
After trailing by as many as 5 at 37-32 in the fourth quarter, the Dragons got even at 41 by scoring the last 4 points of regulation when Lorenz Sistrunk (12 points, 15 rebounds) followed his own miss at the 1:58 mark, and moments later stole the ball and laid it in with 22 seconds on the clock. Hess (9 points) misfired on a long 3-point attempt in the waning seconds.
Lakeside built a 47-43 advantage in the extra session on triples by Jones and Sistrunk. However, Rinella hit a 3-pointer and Hess split two foul shots to tie it as point guard Tristan Bradley fouled out. Maxx Brubaker (9 rebounds, 11 points) got the offensive rebound, then Ricky Fiore found Joe McDonald (8 points, 8 boards) for a layup to give Riverside a 49-47 edge with 1:16 left.
Melvin Thompson then split a pair of free throws for Lakeside. The Beavers tried to hold the ball, but Kyle Downs (10 points, 11 rebounds) eventually knocked it away. The Dragons followed by missing two shots, but Rinella, who grabbed the second rebound as he went to the floor, was called for traveling with 10.9 seconds remaining.
Lakeside led on the boards by a 56-38 count, and Marcell Ballenger blocked 6 shots. But the Dragons went just 20-of-70- (28.6 percent) from the floor, missing a good number of layups and other attempts close to the hoop. They also made just 4 of their 11 free-throw attempts, including 3-of-9 after the break.
“We missed a ton of shots,” Hood said. “We missed a ton of free throws down the stretch. It could have gone either way. You can’t miss those kinds of shots.”
Lakeside’s 24 fouls were also a problem. Not only did they result in foul trouble for multiple players, with Bradley exiting, but they also gave the Beavers twice as many trips to the line as it had. Riverside didn’t shoot well from the stripe either at 11-of-22, but that was a difference of 7 points in a game in which it had 2 fewer baskets.
“I was much happier today (with our defense than I was on Dec. 10, when we lost 81-73 at Lakeside),” May said. “I said if we hold them to 40 points or under, we win the basketball game. We went into overtime at 41, right?
“I was really happy with our offense of late; I was really upset with our defense of late. It’s not that we weren’t working on it. In fact I can tell you we worked only on defense. We wanted to pick up the intensity. We wanted to get to the basketball (the same way we did) last year on the defensive end of the floor. We lost a little bit of the momentum on the offensive end of the floor. So many bad shots.”
Ballenger had 9 rebounds for the Dragons.
“We talked about rebounding; we talked about executing,” Hood said. “I thought we were a little more patient on offense tonight, but I thought we were too patient to the point that we didn’t look to get any shots, for a while.”
The Dragons scored the game’s first 5 points, and went on an 8-0 run for a 16-10 second-period lead. Riverside answered that with 8-consecutive points of its own for an 18-16 edge. Another 8-0 Beaver skein spanned halftime and provided the largest margin of the night at 27-20. But the Dragons put in the next 7 points to tie it at 27.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.