Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Going into the 2013-14 season, one of first-year head coach Jared Shetzer's goals was to turn his Bay Rockets into a full-court, fast-breaking band of basketball players.
On Tuesday night at Lakewood, his squad got an up-close-and-personal look at how that type of game is played.
The Rangers, behind the 27-point effort of senior Shawn McDonald, went on a 16-2 run late in the first quarter and never looked back. When the smoke had cleared, Lakewood had literally run away with a 92-68 win over a stunned Bay squad in a West Shore Conference encounter.
Lakewood, now 2-1 overall and 2-0 in the WSC, overwhelmed the Rockets defensively in the first quarter, then rode some red-hot shooting into second. The Rangers led 53-24 at the half and 78-38 after three quarters of play to win this one going away.
"They've changed their style of play to where they want to press and fast break," said Rangers head coach Phil Argento of Bay's plan of attack. "They want to play fast and shoot threes, and we like to do that too. This is how we practice every day.
"I thought defensively, especially in our man-to-man, we caused them a lot of problems," Argento said. "I'm sure when we do the stats for this game, that our steals and their turnovers turned into a lot of points for us at the other end.
"And then we started pretty fast shooting-wise, and it was off to the races."
The Rangers jumped out to a quick 14-4 lead, but 12-straight points from junior guard Jonathon Brajdic pulled the Rockets back to even. His 3-pointer with 2:48 left in the quarter tied the game at 14-14. but the Lakewood defense kept going with the full-court pressure.
A drive for two and free throw by senior guard Jacob Schmidt quickly put the Rangers back in the lead. It was a lead they would never lose as they went on to score 13 of the game's next 15 points for that 30-16 advantage at the end of the quarter. A total of 12 Rocket turnovers helped fuel Lakewood's run.
With their confidence soaring, the Rangers put the pedal to the metal and just about put the game away in the next eight minutes. They shot nine of 17 from the floor (53 percent) on a variety of fast breaks and 3-pointers. Junior Wes Gerhardt had a steal for two to close out the half and give Lakewood a 53-24 lead at the intermission.
But the big cog in the Lakewood offensive machine was McDonald. The 5-11 senior guard ripped the Rockets for 20 points in the half, including a run of 10-straight points in the second quarter.
"He was all-conference for us last year and he does a lot of things well offensively," said Argento of McDonald's performance. "He's a tough defensive assignment if you're going to play him straight man."
Bay, now 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the WSC, scored the first four points of the second half on baskets from juniors Rex Sunahara and Alec White. But the Rangers went on a 12-0 run, with back-to-back treys from Gerhardt capping off the surge.
At 65-28, this game belonged to the Rangers.
"The biggest thing for us is you can't have 19 turnovers in a half and expect to win a ballgame. That's not going to happen," Shetzer said. "We had our opportunities, but that's a well-coached, well-oiled machine they have over there.
"This is the first year our guys have ever played in this system, where they're running the floor, asked to play great help-side defense and asked to let their defense be their offense. When you're talking about guys who have never done this before and are without a lot of varsity experience, this is going to happen from time to time.
"If you don't take care of the ball, it's going to be a long night for you," he said.
For Lakewood, Gerhardt had a strong game as well with 24 points, while junior Nick Porter came off the bench for 16 points and eight rebounds. Brajdic led the Rockets with 16 points, while sophomore John Koz chipped in with 14.
"We've got McDonald and Porter back, and Garhardt has developed into a nice shooter and did some nice things for us defensively," Argento said. "There's a good five-to-six guy nucleus that can play, and that always helps.
"Porter came off the bench tonight and contributed immediately, and I thought Joe Malone, although he still has a lot of football left in him, did a lot of good things out there. We like his enthusiasm and the way he likes to get out there and play hard.
"That's a big key, to keep playing hard even when you have a lead. And to their credit in the fourth quarter, Bay kept playing. They came at us and outscored us 28-15," he added.
Shetzer went on to say that his team would learn from this game and move forward.
"The bottom line is we have to take better care of the ball and be mentally tough," he said.
"I felt like we got it to 17-16, then all of a sudden it's 30-16 at the end of the first quarter. Their senior leadership basically saw our guys begin to waver, and they just put on the gas and that was it.
"That's a lesson in mental toughness. That's how tough you have to be if you want to get up and down the floor and play this fast-pace offense and defense that we play," he added.
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