The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

February 27, 2013

Two points short...

South rises on Riverside for its first win in three games this season

EUCLID — Following a tough, last-second loss in the Division I sectional semifinals, first-year Riverside coach Adam May was able to look ahead, through the heartbreak of the present, and see a bright future for the program.

“We came and we completely changed everything (when we took over the program),” May said after Tony Walton’s layup with 1.3 seconds left gave South a 42-40 win at Euclid. “The seniors through freshmen are doing the same things.

“(The loss is) tough on the kids. But they did a great job. They did an unbelievable job. It’s not the same Riverside; it’s not. And I think that’s clear to see. Sometimes, there’s some speed bumps in the road to success. Year one’s tough, but if you learn from it, it’s going to make year two that much better.”

You’ll need to excuse the players if it takes them a little time to see May’s point, because Tuesday’s game, a defensive struggle that was often deliberately paced, ended in gut-wrenching fashion for the eighth-seeded Beavers (9-14). Adam Hockman (13 points including three 3-pointers) nailed two free throws to tie the game at 40 with 13.8 seconds left, but after a Riverside timeout, the Rebels (11-12) advanced the ball to the frontcourt and then called a timeout with seven seconds remaining.

Harry Chakirelis (20 points, 8 rebounds), who had combined with Kareem Hunt (12 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocked shots) to score all but eight of South’s points to that juncture, took the inbounds pass behind the halfcourt line, and dribbled through the top of the key and into the lane. When Riverside’s defense focused on the dangerous Chakirelis, he dished the ball to Walton, who was open to the right of the basket.

Following a timeout, Maxx Brubaker (3 blocks), who had scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter, threw a fullcourt pass that was picked off by Walton.

South coach Roy Infalvi Jr. related that the play was run the way it was drawn up.

“We executed perfectly,” he said.

“Chakirelis driving is exactly what we expected,” May said. “It’s the same play that they did earlier in the game (when) we were up 20-13 early in the third quarter and we had all the momentum, and they drive the basketball right (although) with Chakirelis playing, he’s driving left, down the middle of the key.

“We talked about getting inside the basketball, which means the guy on the opposite wing. The guy on the opposite wing needs to get inside the guy on the block, and he didn’t.”

The Beavers hit just 10 of 41 field-goal attempts (24.4 percent) and missed 12 of their 28 free throws. Still, despite the fact the score was tied four times before a baseline jumper by Johnny Hughes on his team’s fifth shot of the possession gave the Rebels a 26-25 edge at the end of three periods, it marked the only time they had led other than at 7-6 early in the second stanza.

A Hockman trey had given Riverside the 20-13 lead, but South answered with a 9-2 stretch to knot it at 22.

The lead changed hands eight more times in the final quarter. Hunt, who had sat part of the period with four fouls, scored a layup and banked in a free throw for a 37-36 lead with 2:42 left, but Brubaker responded with two free throws for a 38-37 edge.

After the sides swapped turnovers and then missed shots, Chakirelis hit two foul shots for a 39-38 lead with 1:26 to go. Then Riverside missed two shots from the floor, got the ball back on a turnover and then missed two more field-goal attempts before Hunt rebounded and then split a one-and-one with 26 seconds remaining.

“I challenge anyone to find anyone that’s 5-11 and a better rebounder than Kareem,” Infalvi said. “He goes up and he gets rebounds above the rim. People have trouble blocking him out. I want him on the floor down the stretch for that purpose-rebounding.”

The ninth-seeded Rebels move on to face sixth-seeded Madison on Friday at 5:30 p.m. in a sectional championship game, also at Euclid. It was the only win in the three meetings between the Premier Athletic Conference rivals, as Riverside had won the first two by scores of 66-65 and 55-44.

“We knew everything they were going to do; they knew everything we were going to do,” May said. “I think we did a good job defensively. I think offensively we needed to do a better job; we didn’t attack enough. We took way too many five-10 footers, runners, weak shots and threes. We had a lead with a minute and a half to go and we shoot a three in transition and it was off-balance — didn’t even come close to the rim. But my kids fought.”

Chandler Smith wrapped up his high-school career with 11 points and 10 rebounds for Riverside.

Ben Robinson and Dylan Caruso each fouled out for South, as the Beavers went to the line 12 more times than the Rebels. However, South put in seven more baskets.

“It was a battle out there,” Infalvi said. “I think the difference was we made enough shots and enough foul shots down the stretch to be the difference.”

Chakirelis (9) and Hunt (4) scored all pf the Rebels’ points in the first half. The Beavers led 6-1 before Chakirelis scored South’s first bucket well into the seventh minute of the contest.

Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.

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