GARFIELD HTS. — It’s amazing how quickly things can change.
With Brunswick’s boys basketball team controlling play the majority of the first half, Garfield Heights knew it had to make an adjustment.
It didn’t take too long for that change to occur, as the Bulldogs stormed out of the locker room and overtook the Blue Devils 70-59 in a Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division showdown.
The big key for Garfield Heights (5-1, 2-0) was the red-hot shooting of junior Al Burge, a 6-foot-3 guard who keyed a 23-point third quarter and had the biggest play of the night.
“We didn’t start the half well, but we still had the lead after 3 or 4 minutes,” Brunswick coach Joe Mackey said. “We didn’t come out of the gates good in the second half. We still had a lead, then we made some mistakes in the zone. That was the difference in the game. Good teams make you pay for mistakes.”
With the game tied at 43, Burge buried his second triple of the quarter and was fouled. He converted the four-point play and, for good measure, dropped another triple on the next trip up the floor to give his squad a seven-point lead that was never relinquished.
“Coach (Sonny Johnson) told me I had to get loose,” Burge said. “I had to get loose and turn it up. I did what I had to do and locked it up. That’s all I had to do.”
Burge scored 14 of his 17 points in the quarter against Brunswick’s 2-3 zone.
“Al Burge was unbelievable again,” said Johnson, whose team also received 20 points from Robert Hurst. “Not only on offense, but he checked their best player (Kyle Wheeler) in the second half and that was crucial.”
Wheeler had 14 points in the first half and just six in the second.
The Blue Devils (4-4, 0-2) kept things in their favor through the majority of the third quarter behind Ryan Badowski (20 points, 4 rebounds) and Wheeler (20, 10).
Brunswick also had to play the better part of the final three quarters without center Taylor Armagost, who rolled his ankle 1:13 into the second quarter. Armagost left with his ankle wrapped heavily and on crutches.
“Taylor going out early took some of our post presence away,” Mackey said. “In order for us to be at the level of Garfield Heights and Shaker Heights, we’re going to need more guys that can put the ball in the basket for us.”
The big man’s injury left a hole in the middle, and 6-foot-10 Bulldogs center Dave Bell took advantage. Bell had 11 points, six rebounds and six blocks — most of which came with Armagost out of the game.
“We just challenged our guys to make shots and make plays,” Johnson said. “We knew we would make a run.”
Three Brunswick players were injured in the second quarter. In addition to Armagost’s ankle injury, Wheeler slipped on a Brunswick cheerleader’s pom-pom and tweaked his knee, and Badowski had a cut on his head that had to be wrapped.
Cleveland State head coach Gary Waters, Kent State assistant Eric Haught and Saint Francis College assistant Eric Taylor were on hand. Former Phoenix Sun and Garfield Heights resident Norman Roscoe was also in attendance.
Brunswick won the junior varsity game 49-39 behind 12 points from Jason Okulovich and 10 from Eric Bulic. Kendrick Pittman led the Bulldogs with 16.