The block-by-block journey to build the Black River boys basketball team is still in its foundation stage. The Pirates have lost six straight to begin the season, including the last three by an average of 44.3 points.
First-year coach Cynthia Berry is doing her best to stem frustrations of her players who have lost 26 straight games dating back to last season.
“The kids are still staying positive and still seeing the small things we need to be doing,” Berry said Thursday following a team dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings in Montville Township. “I don’t think we’re playing any less hard.
“It can be very frustrating at times, but they’re hanging in there and are comfortable trying to do the right things.”
Ball control and an overall lack of scoring have been the main sticking points. Black River is averaging 34.7 points per game, and has more turnovers than rebounds on the season.
In response, Berry has simplified the team’s goals until that first win comes. The Pirates have quarter-by-quarter milestones to shoot for, and they achieved defensive goals in three of four quarters in a 55-21 loss to Brookside last week.
Berry is also stressing the little details that add up to big problems such as 3-4 fewer poor passes or opposing put-backs that can make a 25-point game a 10-point one almost instantly.
“That’s been positive because they’re seeing that,” Berry said. “I’m seeing more team camaraderie. A year ago, they weren’t even high-fiving each other and would complain a lot, but the last game was the hardest game we’ve played so far, so the little things are going well.”
Black River has a good opportunity to break through Saturday at home against Mapleton. The Mounties have lost six straight since defeating Lucas in the opener, and only downed the Pirates 54-46 a year ago.
“(A win) would be a great Christmas gift for all us,” Berry said.
Black River (0-6, 0-4)
Letterwinners Tyler Potter (8.8 ppg), Zach Sword (8.7) and Stephen Zumack (5.2) have scored 136 of the Pirates’ 208 points (65.4 percent).
Brunswick (4-4, 0-2)
Senior shooting guard Kyle Wheeler is averaging 14.4 points per game since returning from a concussion. He needs 44 career points to reach 500 and 19 3-pointers to crack the school’s all-time top five.
l The Blue Devils are in the midst of a 10-day layoff. They host the Brunswick Holiday Hoops Classic on Dec. 28-29.
l Brunswick is nursing its first three-game losing streak since Jan. 2005. It must be noted, however, that Shaker Heights, Pickerington Central and Garfield Heights have a combined 12-4 record.
Buckeye (3-2, 2-2)
Just five games into the season, Buckeye has posted two games of 79 or more points, which hasn’t happened since 2001-02.
l Early trend: junior forward Garrett Beck is averaging 20.3 points in wins and 4.5 in losses.
l Buckeye features a county-high seven players averaging 5 or more points — Beck (14.0), Matt Cox (12.4), Jeff Miller (10.2), Ryan Grauel (8.2), Cory Inman (7.6), Nick Prest (5.2) and Mike Bacho (5.0).
Cloverleaf (1-5, 0-4)
The Colts have been outscored 88-33 over their last four second quarters.
l Junior Brady Kotlarek scored his first varsity points — a 3-pointer — at Revere.
l Three days after facing the Suburban League’s top statistical defense (Highland), Cloverleaf has to contend with the second best tonight in Green, which allows just 48.8 points per game. Center Dan Fanelly leads the SL with an 18.0 scoring average, while Austin Pritchard is posting 10.0.
Highland (4-2, 3-1)
Call it brotherly love. Senior power forward Brennan Scott is averaging 14.3 points in three games without injured little bro Brogan Scott (sprained left ankle), who is expected to return for tonight’s game against Nordonia.
l Tuesday’s 76 points at Cloverleaf were the Hornets’ most since defeating eventual D-II state runner-up Triway 90-83 in overtime on Feb. 15, 2005.
l Fun fact: current assistant coach Jack Banks scored 10 or more points in every game while leading Highland to a 16-5 record in 1984-85. Banks averaged 15.3 points as the Hornets posted their first winning season in 12 years.
Medina (1-4, 0-2)
Junior Branden Wilkins is off to a strong start. The starting power forward ranks sixth in the county with a 13.4 scoring average, while his 23 free throws trail only Brunswick’s Ryan Badowski (42).
l Mentor drilled 15 3-pointers Tuesday against the Bees. The Cardinals have 47 trifectas in three games vs. Medina since joining the Northeast Ohio Conference last season.
Wadsworth (2-4, 2-2)
Fourteen of Patrick Long’s 15 field goals have been 3-pointers. His total is tied with teammate Austin White and Nordonia’s Nick Piotrowski for the Suburban League lead.
l Junior power forward Kyle Prunty has posted 15.0 points and 13.0 rebounds in victories.
l After averaging 14.5 points over the first four games of the season, Wadsworth’s seven-man bench has posted just 10 points over the past two.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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