By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
PERRY TOWNSHIP —
Both Perry and Wickliffe played smothering defense the whole way in their season openers in the nightcap of the Perry Tipoff Tournament.
The difference came in a second quarter run by the Blue Devils that broke an 11-11 tie midway through with a 14-8 run that gave Wickliffe a lead they held the rest of the way in nipping the hosts, 44-41.
Tied at 11-11, Billy Kline hit a 3-point play and another basket to forge a 16-11 lead, Ethan Nobbe canned a trio of 3’s to close out the half.
The second half saw a basic standoff as both teams battled first game jitters, foul problem trouble and smothering defense. The final outcome didn’t come until the Pirates missed a long 3-point attempt with 4.1 second left after Wickliffe’s Mike Mohar clanked his only free throw tries of the night following Cale Burdyshaw’s fifth foul of the night. The shot was wide right, bounced around until the final horn, and the Blue Devils escaped with the win.
“It’s always good to get one of these games out of the way early,” a relieved Blue Devil coach Dave Kryz said. “Our defensive effort was fantastic, I’m really pleased with that. Our shooting, maybe from first game jitters, wasn’t good, and we were really bad from the free throw line. The place was loud, but we got great defense on the point guards from Demetrius Moore and Matt Sherlock.
“Mrosko scored well and was tough on Burdyshaw all night, and Ethan hit those big shots late in the first half to give us a lead.”
Balance was important for the Blue Devils. Mrosko led the scoring with 12 points, Nobbe added his trio of treys for nine more, and David Fitz tallied eight, including four free throws in the fourth period.
The Pirates got a big game from Ryan Zaletel, with 16 points and 10 rebounds to go with three steals. Burdyshaw, saddled by a couple fouls, did not remain consistently in the game much of the night, and added only six points. Anthony Keipert chipped in with eight points, but the Pirates missed many shots they won’t miss later. It added up to a 35.7 percent effort from the floor, and they hit 9 of 17 free shots.
Efforts from the line almost killed Wickliffe as they hit only 9 of 24 for the game.
“Our shots weren’t falling, and those 16 first-half turnovers killed us,” Perry coach Al Iacofano said. “We put on a great defensive effort, but having Cale saddled with early foul trouble hurt. I told the kids that if we got any type of run or not, we needed to play defense. We did it well, but we didn’t get the scoring runs. We’ll just come back tomorrow and try harder. I loved the intensity we had all night, and Ryan Zaletel played a great game.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.