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Fast start powers first-place Rangers past Pirates
Fast start powers first-place Rangers past PiratesStory by Jim Horvath
Photos by David Richard

In the first minutes of the game, Rocky River looked like it would give visiting Lakewood all it could handle. A bucket inside from Jimmy Kinsley and another score from Nathan Seffernick had the Pirates up 6-2 and looking to pull off the upset.

That's when the Rangers kicked their game into another gear.

Lakewood, its defense forcing turnovers and its offense clicking on all cylinders, exploded for a 20-2 run to take a commanding 22-8 lead. That first-quarter performance gave the Rangers enough of a cushion to fight off several Pirate runs and leave town with a 66-55 West Shore Conference win Friday night.

"I thought defensively we caused them to have a lot of turnovers in that first quarter, said Rangers head coach Phil Argento, whose team not only forced eight River miscues, but also shot nine of 15 from the floor in those first eight minutes.

"We kept the pressure on their point guard," Argento continued. "Mike Angers might be 5-4, but he's a very aggressive defender on the ball. It was a good team effort defensively.

"And I was pleased that we did a little bit better job rebounding, which has been a problem for us all year long," he added.

The Rangers' run started when guard Shawn McDonald drove the lane for two. Another drive from fellow senior Jacob Schmidt tied the game and had the visitors off and running.

Lakewood took the lead for good on a McDonald baseline jumper, then junior guard Wes Gerhardt drained the first of his four 3-pointers on the night for an 11-6 Ranger lead. Kinsley slowed the run a bit with a pair of free throws with 3:26 left in the quarter, but another trey from Gerhardt out of the left corner provided the quick Lakewood response.

Gerhardt was also fouled on the play, and he converted the free throw for the 4-point play. He would nail one more long-range jumper in the run, and a baseline drive by McDonald capped things off and gave the Rangers their 22-8 lead.

"Lakewood came out very aggressive," said Rocky River head coach Michael Murray, whose team trailed by as many as 16 points early in the second quarter.

"I thought they did a nice job in transition on us," Murray said. "We lost some of their guys, and they knocked down some shots. That put us in a pretty big deficit, and we just couldn't come back from it."

To their credit, the Pirates would go on several runs of their own to cut into the huge deficit.

A 3-pointer from senior Bernard Frohnapple cut the lead to eight, 33-25, late in the half. An Eric Jones jumper had the Ranger lead down to seven, 37-30, early int he third quarter. A jumper by sophomore Jack Corrigan cut it down to seven again later in the third quarter, this time at 46-39.

But the Pirates could get no closer as the Rangers found an answer each time River made a move.

"I think we had to expend so much energy making those runs," Murray said. "We were trying to ride them, but also sub in as well. It's kind of difficult.

"I thought we were aggressive on offense, and I thought we moved our feet pretty well on defense. But as soon as we would tighten the game down, Lakewood made some plays and stretched the lead. A three here, a drive there, and they were able to keep it out of reach.

When we were pressuring them and making our runs, I thought they did a nice job of spreading the floor and really getting into the paint. Whether they finished or kicked it out for the wide open shot, I thought they did a good job with that," he added.

McDonald led all scorers with 21 points. Argento said his leading scorer found a way to score despite the attention he was getting from the River defense.

"McDonald does what he does. He's a tough assignment defensively, and he's pretty clever," Argento said.

"He's a scorer, and those guys never stop thinking about that. Some guys are shooters, and if they miss a few jumpers they're worried about the one they just missed. That's not how a scorer thinks.

"A scorer is thinking about what he has to do to get another shot. Can I get the guy to the rim? Can I get fouled and get to the foul line? That's Shawn," he said.

Gerhardt wound up with 15 points, while sophomore post player Logan Swift added 10 points and five rebounds. Schmidt chipped in with eight points and five rebounds, while Angers also scored eight points, including a 3-pointer.

Jones led the Pirates with 15 points, while Frohnapple and Kinsley added 11 and eight points, respectively. River had a slight 21-20 rebound advantage, with Kinsley grabbing eight boards.

"To Rocky River's credit, they may be having a tough season as far as their win-loss record, but they come out and compete," Argento said. "Those kids never quit, and they've played a lot of close games.

"We've been fortunate to pull out those close games. Sometimes that's just the way it balances out. Over the course of a whole season, the good teams really have to find a way," he added.

Click here to view David Richard's complete photo gallery of the game: Lakewood at Rocky River.

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