Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Trailing by 21 points at halftime, a young North Olmsted team faced an uphill climb.
On the other bench, a youthful Bay squad had some challenges of its own.
North Olmsted bounced back, cutting the Rockets' lead to four with plenty of time left on the fourth-quarter clock. But Bay answered with a 16-6 run to close out the game and take a 72-58 win over the Eagles in the 2013-14 basketball season opener Friday night at the Launch Pad.
The win gave Jared Shetzer his first as Bay's new head coach. Former Rockets mentor Jason Frolo was making his return to Bay as well, this time as North Olmsted's new head coach. Both coaches, no doubt, experienced a series of highs and lows as the potential blowout turned into a barn-burner late in the second half.
Bay had taken a 41-20 halftime lead, shooting 45 percent from the floor and hitting six 3-pointers. Consecutive treys by juniors Rex Sunahara, Danny Heideloff and Jonathon Brajdic opened up the second quarter and gave the Rockets a 30-8 lead.
But as the game wore on, the hot outside shooting began to fade. In the second half, the Eagles chipped away and got to within 15 points, 52-37, heading into the fourth quarter.
"I think that's a product of having inexperienced guys," Shetzer said.
"We really only have one guy out there with any varsity experience. Unfortunately, that's just the way it is right now," he said. "We're going to keep coaching them up, and they'll get it. We've got some good athletes.
"It's a four quarter game, and we played about two out of the four really, really well. I give North Olmsted credit. They started going at the basket, and we really didn't do a heck of a lot to stop them. But like I said, we'll coach them up and get them going," he said.
North Olmsted got going in the fourth quarter with a 7-0 burst to cut the Bay lead to 52-44. A 3-pointer from Jason Brent opened the run, and a fast break bucket off a Rocket turnover by Jah Taylor had the Eagles within striking distance.
Bay responded with a Matt Orr free throw and a 3-pointer from Brajdic, but the Eagles kept coming.
Taylor ignited another North Olmsted run with a drive for two. Sophomore post player Andy Lucien scored on an offensive rebound, then sophomore Ryan Coleman scored off a steal to make it 56-50 with 4:24 left in regulation. Lucien scored on a short jumper, and just like that it was a four-point game.
Despite turning the ball over 10 times in the quarter, the Rockets managed to regroup. Senior Will Wilson scored on a layup, then Sunahara converted an offensive stick back to get the Bay lead back out to eight at 60-52. The Eagles came right back on buckets from freshman Josh Hufstetler and Taylor.
But Taylor's hoop with 2:35 remaining proved to be the second-to-last score for the visitors. A fast break layup from Tommy Sullivan came early in the final minute, but wasn't nearly enough to offset Bay's 12-point run to close out the game.
"We're proud of the effort in the second half," said Frolo, whose team managed just 11 of 27 from the free throw line and just two of eight in the fourth quarter.
"But we're also disappointed that it took a 21-point deficit to get us to the point where we woke up and realized we were getting our butts kicked. And, that we needed to do something about it. We need to have that attitude right from the tip, right from the start of the game.
"That's what happens sometimes when you have a young team. We've got three sophomores and a freshman out there starting. It gets to 7-0, 10-2 early and it's like a deer in the headlights a little bit. We tried to manage it, but Bay was hitting everything they put up and we're missing free throws and layups.
"We're not finishing shots around the hoop, and it snowballed on us," he added.
Lucien led the Eagles with 16 points while pulling down 10 rebounds. Coleman added 11 points, while Taylor added eight off the bench.
"We challenged them at halftime and told them they had a decision to make," Frolo said. "We can accept our fate and have it be a blowout, or we can fight back and make it a game.
"With the way Bay plays, there are going to be a lot of possessions up and down the floor. We're going to have a chance to get back in it, and that's exactly what happened. We got it to a four-point game with a chance to win it. We were at the foul line several times in the second half, but you can't win any games shooting 11 of 27.
"You're fighting yourself there, and that's something we're going to have to get better at," he added.
The Rockets got a balanced scoring effort, led by the 11-point effort from seine Collin DeBarr off the bench, Sophomore John Koz, Brajdic, Heideloff and Wilson, contributed 10 points each, while junior Alec White had seven rebounds. Sunahara also had seven rebounds for the Rockets, who outrebounded the Eagles 47-32.
"Our junior class has had a lot of success, from back in the seventh and eighth grade to last year," Shetzer said. "The writing is on the wall that they could be good. But we graduated nine seniors last year, so that makes a huge difference.
"For example, we've got two points guards out there right now who don't have a lot of experience. Nobody does. But once our point guard play gets better and they start getting in charge of things and running the show for us, we're going to be a lot better.
"We made six threes in the first half, then come back in the second half and only make two. But that's why I say we only played two quarters. In the first half, we played about a quarter and a half. Then the last half of the fourth quarter, we decided to pick it up again.
"It's in that middle part of the game where we have to get things cleaned up," he added.
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