By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
Statistically, the difference in Riverside’s 55-44 victory came at the free-throw line, where the Beavers had more than twice as many attempts as South and shot much better.
However, both coaches pointed to other factors as the main difference — factors that aren’t as easy to quantify.
In looking at some of the things that are easy to quantify, South converted six more field goals than the Beavers (8-5, 7-2) on Friday. But host Riverside, which stayed in the thick of the Premier Athletic Conference race, canned six treys as compared to one for the Rebels, and went to the line a whopping 34 times, hitting 23, as compared to just five of 16 for South (2-10, 1-6).
It was a huge turnaround for the Beavers, who had shot less than 30 percent from the line in a 74-66 loss to Mayfield on Tuesday.
“We might have practiced it a little bit,” Riverside coach Adam May said with a laugh before taking a more serious tone. “We did not play our best on Tuesday. I’ll be darned if we didn’t look like a basketball team tonight.”
“That was a big difference,” South coach Roy Infalvi Jr. said. “We talked at halftime about that; we were one-of-seven in the first half at the foul line and they were (10-of-14). We talked about how we do have to execute, make the foul shots. But that wasn’t the difference. I think their defensive pressure was the difference tonight.”
The Rebels went just 19 of 59 from the floor (32.2 percent). That percentage was actually slightly better than Riverside, which went 13 of 41, but with the six 3-point field goals.
“We really didn’t even press them tonight,” May said. “I think we pressed them twice, and one time they got a layup. I think the key was just the intensity.”
Adam Hockman scored 20 points for the Beavers, including three triples. Chandler Smith added 12 and a team-leading nine rebounds. That was more than enough to offset the efforts of the Rebels’ Kareem Hunt (2 blocked shots), who put in 16 of his 21 points in the second half, and grabbed seven of his nine boards in the fourth quarter.
Like the Beavers’ 66-65 verdict at South on Dec.11, this one did not come easy. After Riverside led 22-20 at the half on a drive by Jordan Aiken, the Rebels took the advantage three times, the final one coming at 28-27 when Hunt converted a layup off a pass from Harry Chakirelis (4 assists, 2 blocks). At that point, a three-point play by Hockman set off a 9-0 run that provided a 36-28 lead late in the third period.
The Beavers pushed that into double digits when Smith canned a trifecta to make it 43-32 in the first minute of the final period. However, an 8-1 stint that both started and ended with putbacks by Hunt brought South within 44-40 as the three-minute mark approached.
Riverside answered with seven-consecutive points on a spinning layup by Smith, a split pair of free throws by Hockman and two layups by Maxx Brubaker to make it 51-40 with 1:07 left.
“We just never stop coming at you,” May said. “It’s a next-guy-in mentality. We play 11 guys; nobody’s getting too tired. I preach, ‘Go two minutes, get a 30-second break. Go two minutes, get a 30-second break,’ and just keep running guys. And you see guys (on the other team) just run out of steam. We win games in the fourth quarter.”
“I’m a little disappointed in our execution offensively,” Infalvi said. “I was happy, with the most part, our defense. We did foul a little too much. But I thought we rebounded OK and defended pretty decently.”
Tony Walton had eight points and a game-high 10 boards for South. Teammate Ben Robinson blocked two shots. Marc Wadas had two blocks for Riverside.
“We talked this week about becoming closer — coming closer as a family, as a basketball team,” May said. “And we wrote on the board, in all capital letters, ‘TOGETHER WE CAN BE GREAT.’ Then we broke it down. We said, ‘TOGETHER,’ ‘CAN BE’ and ‘GREAT.’ Not good, we’re not there yet, and we’ve got to do it together. So there’s the three parts to it.
“I think the energy on the bench really spewed onto the floor. I think our kids just wanted to succeed for each other. And when you want to succeed for each other, you become a basketball team, and all of a sudden things look good. I think our guys really had fun tonight, so hopefully they learned something.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.