BRUNSWICK — Foul trouble for Pat Forsythe meant big trouble for Brunswick’s boys basketball team.
Strongsville took advantage of the 6-foot-10 center’s absence by pounding the ball inside early and often, paving the way for a 70-66 win over the Blue Devils on Saturday night.
Forsythe scored 20 points in 20 minutes before fouling out, but Mustangs big men Aaron White and Ray Hamilton combined for 32 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists in leading their club to the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division triumph.
“We came in tonight knowing we were going to take the ball at Forsythe and see if we could keep him in foul trouble,” said Strongsville coach Joe Lynch, whose team is 9-5, 3-2. “When it wound up working, it had a huge impact on the game.
“That’s a good thing, too, because if he doesn’t sit that much, he probably scores 70 on us.”
Though White (23 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks) and Hamilton (9 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists) are effective defenders, they had no success stopping Forsythe.
The West Virginia recruit made 9-of-11 field goals and 2-of-2 free throws, but was a non-factor after picking up his third foul 2:33 into the second quarter and his fourth just 1:42 into the third.
Forsythe fouled out with 21 seconds left in regulation and the Mustangs holding a 68-65 lead.
“We can argue about the fouls on Pat, but the officials made them and we had to deal with them,” said Brunswick coach Joe Mackey, whose squad slipped to 8-5, 2-3. “It’s just unfortunate they took out the best player out of the game.
“They get paid to make calls and we get paid to coach. We don’t make excuses, and I thought our kids responded very well to the challenge.”
Indeed, they did, especially senior forwards Zach Gresch and Matt Dunning, who filled it up from 3-point range.
Gresch (career-high 12 points, 6 rebounds) came off the bench to make 4-of-9 shots beyond the arc, while Dunning (career-high 17 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) connected on 5-of-13 tries from the perimeter.
Thanks to their sharpshooting, the Blue Devils hung with their archrivals for the entire contest and actually led 47-41 with 1:40 left in the third.
“Gresch really gave us a huge lift tonight and Dunning was big again,” Mackey said. “Honestly, we thought we were going to run away with it once we got up six, but we couldn’t close out the quarter.”
Brunswick’s final advantage came one minute into the fourth when Dunning drained his fifth three to make it 57-56, but White put Strongsville right back in front with his third slam dunk. He later gave the Mustangs their largest lead of the game at 66-59 with a gorgeous drive to the hoop.
Brunswick point guard Ryan Badowski (11 points, 3 assists) made four free throws that closed the gap to 66-65 with 1:40 left, but Strongsville slammed the door with four freebies of its own as time wound down.
“Give Strongsville credit because their guys made more plays than our guys did,” Mackey said. “With all of our young guys, I honestly don’t know if we’re talented enough to (beat them) without Pat, but as you saw, we sure as hell tried to.”
The loudest cheer of the evening came at halftime of the varsity game when a Strongsville cheerleader made a half-court shot to win a pizza.
• Brunswick’s junior varsity rolled to a 48-28 victory thanks to 12 points from center Taylor Armagost.
• The entire Blue Devils girls basketball team took in the game, which tipped off a mere four hours following their home win over Mayfield.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.