By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
Being part of the Lake Effect Conference has been both good and bad for the St. John Herald boys basketball team.
Teams from unorthodox situations comprise the conference, and when the Heralds came up against a group of homeschoolers from the Bainbridge area, the Geauga Grizzlies, on Wednesday night at Mahoney Gymnasium.
The Grizzlies, not with their full compliment of players present after the long ride from southern Geauga County, nonetheless did a large amount of scratching and clawing in using a second half surge to pull away from the Heralds for a 60-23 LEL victory.
St. John battled in the first half. A third period when nothing seemed to go right, though, resulting in a big zero on the scoreboard for the quarter for St. John, let the final gust of air out of the young sails on Station Avenue.
“I guess we’re just becoming a first half team,” Heralds coach Ryan Harco said. “We went scoreless in the third period a couple nights ago, too, and you just can’t do that and expect to stay in games. The kids are just so young, they are learning things the hard way, and it is frustrating.”
With only Mike Mahoney representing the St. John senior class on the squad, the frustration can take a toll. Wearing a mask to protect a broken nose, Mahoney nailed a big 3-pointer in the latter parts of the second quarter after taking a pass from Chris Stein to cut the gap to 25-16, and the Heralds were going toe to toe with the Grizzlies.
That was in spite of a large size edge the crew from Geauga County had. They dominated the backboards, 44-14, paced by a huge effort from Zach Schwartz . Going along with his 19 points was a 24 rebound, 6 steal evening. The outcome might have been worse had the full compliment of players made the trip.
“We missed way too many shots tonight,” coach Chris Hansen said. “Being a team of kids who homeschool, too, many of our kids who come from west of Bainbridge didn’t want to make the trip. They knew we had a big edge talentwise, so we came with those who wanted to play and did well.”
Schwartz also blocked seven shots, and between his inside efforts and the ball handling and driving efforts of Ben Hall, who twisted and drove his way to the basket for 26 points.
“It’s important for the kids to know that the score isn’t really important,” Hansen said. “We came in tonight wanting to work on our plays and fundamentals that we need to get better at. This is a great group of kids to work with, and while we had some good moments tonight, there were still things we need to keep working harder at. We have to work with some of the kids on shooting layups, for sure.”
The Grizzlies 11-12, 5-9 in LEC) weren’t hot from the floor, netting just 33.3 percent of their 57 shots, but that huge edge on the boards allowed them to get multiple tries, and many went in.
“We’ve got three games left,” Harco said. “We play Lawrence in the Andrews-Osborne tournament Friday. The kids are just so young, we need to work harder over summer to get better and to continue to grow up. Our fan base is great, they never stop coming, and our cheerleaders do a great job of keeping things upbeat.”
St. John (1-14, 1-11 in LEC) got a solid game from Chris Stein. He hit a pair of 3-pointers on his way to a 12-point night, led his team with four rebounds, and stole the ball six times.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.