Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
Throughout most of the first half, Fairview was playing on even terms with longtime rival Rocky River. But as halftime approached, a few warning signs started popping up for the visiting Warriors.
A missed layup here. A hastily-shot 3-pointer there.
And as the third quarter began, the Pirates began to take advantage of Fairview's shooting woes. Their transition game fed off the numerous missed shots as they outscored the visitors, 22-6, in the quarter and ran away with a 62-36 win Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
"In the first half, I loved what I saw out of my team," said Fairview head coach Pete Maienknecht, whose team played dead even with River for the first 10-plus minutes of the game.
"We came out and battled. We were poised early in the game, which was great for it being the first game and an arch-rival type of game. I think it's really important that you come out and take care of the basketball in that situation.
"You've got to be very poised and sure with the ball, and I thought early on we did a pretty good job," he said.
The Warriors did just that. They committed just six turnovers in the half, while Rocky River committed 10 miscues and looked stagnant offensively at times. But with every missed shot, the Pirates were able to get their transition game up and running.
Fairview had tied the game at 12-12 on a drive down the lane from junior guard Jared Butler. The two teams traded missed free throws before River senior Jimmy Kinsley scored inside off an offensive rebound. He was fouled on the play, and hit the resulting free throw for a 15-12 Pirate lead.
Rocky River, which never trailed in the game, took off from there. A steal for two from senior Sutton Klodnick led to a Fairview timeout with 4:56 left in the half. The Pirates closed out the quarter with a modest 8-4 run to make it 25-16 at the half.
"It was the first game of the year, and we knew there was going to be a little struggle there in the first quarter," said River head coach Michael Murray. "But it extended through the first half.
"I credit Fairview for really attacking us, and that put us on our heels a bit defensively," he said. "I thought they did a nice job spreading us out and getting into the gaps. Then we go into halftime with 10 turnovers and only two assists."
"We're changing our offense around, and we're trying to play with more pace. But for awhile there, it was too much dribbling and not enough sharing the basketball. I think in the second half, we had eight assists and only five turnovers, so we played much better," he said.
The Pirates came out with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter. Kinsley hit a pair of free throws, then senior Pat Connors got a steal for two. A Connors fast break hoop off an assist from junior Eric Jones kept that quicker pace going, and a rebound for two from junior Jack Corrigan had the Pirates up 33-16.
A baseline drive for two by senior Ryan Williams got Fairview on the board and sparked a 6-2 Warrior run. But River closed out the quarter with a 12-0 stretch that started with a Klodnick trey and ended with a pair of free throws from senior Gary Matthews.
"In the second half, we continued to miss some shots that we needed to go down," Maienknecht said. "That would have changed the rhythm and momentum of the game, but we couldn't get that to happen.
"Then, I thought we got a little discouraged and started to get impatient on offense. Guys started playing hero basketball instead of team ball. We took some ill-advised shots that led to quick transition for Rocky River.
"And our defensive transition really broke down in the second half. When Rocky River was able to get running like that, they got on a roll and got going. Things kind of snowballed from there," he said.
Maienknecht also felt his team had problems solving River's zone defense in the second half.
"They went to that zone, and it disrupted our rhythm. We didn't do a good job staying poised, working the gaps and trying to distort that zone. Instead of being patient, we kind of forced things" he said.
"They pay five guards predominantly out there, and all five of those guys can shoot it," Murray said. "We thought by going zone and using a little bit of length, we could push them out a little bit further.
"I think they shot a little deeper than they wanted, and that led to some transition for us there at the start of the third quarter. We were able to get some transition baskets and build our lead," he said.
For the game, Williams and junior Derek Schwarber led the way with nine points each. Butler was close behind with eight, while senior Liam McCafferty chipped in with six. But that wasn't nearly enough to offset the Warriors' overall shooting slump and a 50-21 deficit on the boards.
"According to our shot chart, we were seven for 21 on layups and four of 22 from the 3-point line," Maienknecht said. "I liked what we were doing on offense early in the game. We were getting what we wanted, but we missed a lot of shots that you've got to make."
River's balanced effort was led by junior Evan Nugent's 11 points off the bench. Corrigan, Jones and Kinsely each had nine points, while Connors and Klodnick each added seven.
"I credit our kids with the depth we showed tonight," Murray said. "We played a lot of kids, and our guys that came off the bench played well.
"I do think we have some guys who can fill it up. But when we shared the basketball like we did in the second half and got out in transition, it was nice," Murray said. "Different guys were able to get to the rim and score.
"And then we rebounded the basketball very well. I thought our guys did a much better job rebounding the basketball from the second quarter on," he added.
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Click on the cameras below to view Larry's photos and video highlights from this game: