Story by John Blake
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Brecksville and Avon Lake may compete in the Southwestern Conference, but Friday night's boys basketball matchup between the two schools had a Big Ten feel to it.
Bees head coach Steve Mehalik made such comparison following his team's 47-34 win over the visiting Shoremen in the 2013-14 season SWC opener for both teams.
"We pride ourselves that we just find a way," said Mehalik. "Tonight was a grind out game. They are so good defensively.
"There were a lot of turnovers and there was some ugly basketball. But I think those are two pretty good defensive teams going at it," he said.
It wasn't the prettiest of games for sure. Points were at a premium, defense was tough and turnovers were prevalent in the physical, defensive battle.
Brecksville led just 18-15 at halftime and 28-24 after three quarters before slowly pulling away in the final eight minutes. A pair of free throws by senior Adam Kalinsky at the 4:55 mark of the fourth quarter gave the Bees a 34-26 lead, their largest of the game.
The Shoremen had their fair share of open looks, but couldn't convert.
"As I told the guys, I can't fault their effort," said Avon Lake head coach Eric Smith. "We get after it, we play hard.
"You gotta put the ball in the basket and I can't do that for them. That's the name of the game. They made shots and we didn't. I thought we got good shots. It comes down to fundamentals. We don't finish in transition, we don't jump stop when we're supposed to jump stop and that leads to a bad pass or a charge or a missed layup.
"There were fundamental things that we work on all the time that went out the window," Smith said.
The Bees, now 2-1 overall on the season, managed only two field goals in the fourth quarter but cashed in on 15-of-18 free throws. Their final 11 points came from the charity stripe.
Brecksville's Jon Balhorn led all scorers with 13 points. Junior Luke Cipolla scored 12.
"Guys stepped up down the stretch," Mehalik said. "Jonny Balhorn struggled a little bit tonight, but he just continues to rebound the basketball.
"Christian Harris had some great minutes and Luke Sibola carried us a little bit offensively even though maybe he wasn't making as many threes as he usually does," he added.
Mehalik's club has battled some early season injuries, with Timmy Tupa out with an injured thumb and Tyler Tupa battling a sore ankle.
Avon Lake senior Brad Hamilton led the Shoremen with 12 points and senior guard Christian Jones finished with 10. The Brecksville coach praised Smith and Avon Lake for always providing a tough challenge to the Bees.
"Every time we play them, it's just a war," Mehalik said. "They know what we do, they take it away. We know what they do, we try to take it away.
"You hate playing them because you know they're going to be so well prepared but in a sense it's a great rivalry. I have the utmost respect for those guys, they're so well-coached," he added.
Next up for both teams, Brecksville hosts North Olmsted Dec. 13, while Avon Lake travels to Berea-Midpark on Tuesday.
Click on the cameras below to view photos and video highlights of this game:
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