By ROB DiPOFI
For the Star Beacon
In a number of sports, pace of play is very important.
In football, teams will use no-huddle offenses to try and keep opponents out of sorts and unable to make substitutions.
In golf, players are expected to make sure they play holes in a certain amount of time and not hold up other players.
And, in basketball, coaches want their players to play at a pace that best suits them and provides the best chance to win.
In Friday night’s contest between Riverside and Geneva, pace of play became an issue and eventually propelled the visiting Beavers to a 67-51 win over the Eagles in the Premier Athletic Conference lidlifter for both teams.
Both teams came out at the beginning of the game and employed fullcourt pressure, seeking to get their opponents playing at uncomfortable pace. Both teams took advantage of some initial defensive breakdowns and shot at high percentages.
In that wildly entertaining first half, Geneva got a big boost from senior Eric Juncker (13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) and senior Matt Mackynen (11 points, 4 rebounds) and enjoyed a lead for a majority of the first 16 minutes played. The host Eagles pushed out to their biggest lead of the night at 36-28 with a little less than two minutes in the second quarter. Riverside, though, used a dizzying run to end the half, outscoring Geneva 12-2 from that point on to take a 40-38 halftime lead. In that time span, the Beavers got two gigantic 3-pointers from junior Tim Keller (6 points), including one at the halftime buzzer.
After the teams came back out for the third quarter, it certainly looked as though Geneva looked worse for wear. The frenetic pace of the first half seemed to take its toll on the Eagles in the second half.
For the game, Geneva committed 41 turnovers (a majority of them in the second half), something Coach Scott Torok could not overlook when assessing what happened in the contest.
“After that first half, it was tough to maintain our performance,” he said. “We shot well but we were playing too fast. Before the game, we had three keys on the board. They were manage the game, take care of the ball, and composure. In the second half, we did none of those.”
The score remained at 40-38 until 3:38 of the third quarter with the teams missing a number of shots and committing some untimely turnovers. Senior Vern Thompson’s (13 points) driving layup broke the ice in the stanza to tie the game at 40. Geneva would also score the next basket of the quarter too but Riverside struck back again, scoring the last 8 of the quarter, propelling them to 48-42 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the teams battled and traded hoops for the first few minutes and with 4:30 left it was 56-50, Riverside. At that point, though, Riverside began to put the game away, capitalizing on Geneva having to come out of its 2-3 zone and giving the Beavers some dribble penetration opportunities and chances to score from the foul line. Torok could not help but think things could have been different with a different pace.
“We did not play smart,” Torok said. “They may disagree with me but it’s really tough to what we did in the first half for the whole game, and the second half proved it. Had we managed the game better in the first half, we would have been up double digits.”
For Riverside Coach Adam May, it was just what he wanted out of his team and the game played out in his team’s favor.
Using 10 players liberally and employing fullcourt pressure throughout the contest is just the way he wants it.
“We felt we matched up real well with Geneva and tried to make it a full court game and make them play faster than they wanted to,” he said.
Using a style of play that May blossomed under while a player himself for Bob Krizancic at Mentor High School, the first-year head coach appears to be getting Riverside moving in that same type of direction, looking to fatigue the opponents in the second half. May certainly got a number of good performances from his team, having four young men in double figures:
(Maxx Brubaker, 12 points, Chandler Smith, 13 points, Adam Hockman, 13 points, Marcus Wadas, 14 points). Smith also came up with eight steals while Wadas hauled down 6 rebounds.
“We played poorly for 27 minutes, but the last 5 were great,” May said. “We want to wear teams out and win games in the 4th quarter. I want these guys to buy into what we are doing and when they do, they will be a special group. This win is certainly a step in that direction and winning a PAC game is big, too.”
DiPofi is a freelance writer from Geneva.