June 25, 2016

Mostly clear

Knights hand Devils first loss

BRUNSWICK — Many things can be pointed to as reasons why Brunswick’s boys basketball team lost 66-55 to Nordonia Saturday night.

The Blue Devils (5-1) allowed the Knights multiple second-chance points, made costly turnovers and struggled from the floor in the second half of the championship game of the Brunswick Holiday Hoops Classic.

But Brunswick coach Joe Mackey knew exactly what was behind his team’s first loss of the season.

“They were bigger, stronger, faster and better than us tonight,” the veteran coach said. “Usually when a team is bigger, stronger, faster, better and with all that and the fact they played a lot harder than we did, that makes for a long night for the home team.”

The Knights (8-1) used their muscle in the paint to cash in on second chance points en route to collecting 14 offensive rebounds. Starters 6-foot-7 Jimmy Reeves (12 points, 7 rebounds) and 6-5 Aaron Pankratz (12, 7) combined for seven of the Knights’ offensive boards.

Nordonia coach Ken Vehar said that guard penetration helped his big men dominate inside.

“We got some good penetration from our one motion offense that we run,” Vehar said. “It forced the big guys to kind of help out and they’re not in real good position to box out.

“Fortunately we’re big, so if we get a chance to get good position, we’re going to get rebounds.”

The set Vehar spoke of involved Nordonia’s three guards running a dribble weave on the perimeter, which created driving lanes for shots in the lane. Guard Dominic Russo netted a game-high 16 for the Knights.

Combine the success on the offensive end with a solid defensive game plan by Nordonia and it made for a long night for the Blue Devils.

After watching Brunswick guard Bob Ritchie hand out a school-record 15 assists the night before, Nordonia decided to send waves of defenders at the floor general to wear him out.

The plan was to force the tempo and make Ritchie turn the ball over. It worked as Ritchie committed a season-high six turnovers.

“The one thing we knew is that he runs the show for this team and they don’t really have a guy who can run the show like he can,” Vehar said. “We had a couple of guys that we felt could defend him really well.

“He’s not a great athlete; he’s just a great skill ballplayer. We just thought we’re going to go full court and make him work every single time.”

It marked the first time Ritchie struggled after having just three miscues in the previous five games.

“Bob’s entitled to a bad game, he’s played very well for us this season,” Mackey said. “But he didn’t handle the pressure very well and we didn’t do a whole lot to help him out either.”

Brunswick did keep it close in the second half cutting the Knights’ lead to six points on two occasions. That was as close as the host Devils would get.

One major reason for Brunswick’s struggles can be traced to leading scorer Joe Puch (15 points — all in the first half) fouling out with 4:31 to go in the game and the Blue Devils trailing only 56-50.

“Well, Joe fouling out certainly didn’t help,” Mackey said. “But the bottom line is when any of our players foul out, someone else has to step up and unfortunately tonight we didn’t have one guy step up.”

After shooting a respectable 11-for-20 from the field in the first half, Brunswick only found the back of the net six times on 23 second half shot attempts.

About Liz Sheaffer