Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Benne
Coming off a tough loss to Elyria Catholic, the Bay Rockets found themselves trailing Rocky River at the half, 31-25. The Pirate lead grew to nine as Eric Jones drilled a 3-pointer to open the second half.
That's when Rex Sunahara and the Rockets went off.
Bay, with their senior center scoring 16 of his 25 points in the quarter, blindsided Rocky River with an 18-2 run to take the lead. And this time, the Rockets held on to their fourth quarter lead and came away with a 66-55 West Shore Conference win Friday night at The Launch Pad.
Bay moved to 10-5 overall and maintained a share of the WSC lead with Avon and EC. The Eagles got past Lakewood, 80-71, Friday night, while the Panthers took down Vermilion, 56-49.
Rocky River had held the lead throughout most of the first half, with Jack Corrigan hitting the second of his four first-half threes to put his team ahead at 11-8. The Pirates lead 18-12 after one quarter and scored the last six points of the second quarter for their 31-25 halftime lead.
But after Jones hit his 3-pointer to open the second half, it was as if someone flicked the switch for Bay.
And especially for Sunahara.
Senior Alec White, who was assigned to guard Corrigan in the second half, got things started for the Rockets with a rebound for two. Then Sunahara, after a relatively quiet first half, launched and hit a 3-pointer from the right corner.
Back-to-back drives to the hoop from senior guard Danny Heideloff tied the game at 34-34, and the momentum looked to be clearly in the home team's favor.
But Corrigan hit a driving jumper to put the Pirates back in the lead at 36-34, prompting Bay head coach Jared Shetzer to call a timeout.
"At that point, we just wanted to re-emphasize some of the things we talked about at halftime," Shetzer said. "Either we were going to do it or we weren't."
From that point on, Shetzer's crew kicked things up another notch. Sunahara hit a baseline jumper, then White scored on a baseline drive. Seconds later, Sunahara put down a two-handed slam dunk to make it 40-36, Rockets with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
Timeout, Rocky River.
"You have to give Bay's kids credit," said Rocky River head coach Michael Murray. "I thought they made a great run there."
After the timeout, that Rocket run continued. Sunahara drained another trey from the right corner, this one glancing off the glass. Jones countered with a jumper, but then Sunahara answered right back with an NBA-range trey from the top of the key that banked in.
Sunahara finished his big quarter with a conventional 3-point play with 33.3 seconds left. When the smoke cleared, Bay held a 49-42 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"It wasn't just me out there," Sunahara said after the game. "My teammates were setting me up very well. They were passing the ball around and getting me open.
"Danny hit two big shots there, and Brandon Morriss was down low doing what he does best and getting boards. And Alec came in and played one heck of a game off the bench.
"I can't give them enough credit. Without them, I can't do what I did," he added.
Rocky River hung close early in the fourth quarter. Corrigan hit a medium-range jumper to pull the Pirates to within six, 50-44, then Jones went coast-to-coast for a layup to make it 50-46.
But Heideloff came back with a 3-pointer, and Sunahara drilled another trey form the top of the key to keep things rolling the Rockets' way. Sunahara's trey sparked a 9-0 run that put the game out of reach at 62-49.
That run ended on Sunahara's second slam dunk of the game off an assist from junior John Koz.
"A couple of those threes they hit, you really don't expect," Murray said. "But give them credit. They were playing hard.
"We still managed to get back into it there in the fourth quarter. At one point we got it back down to four, but we just couldn't score much after that. We went cold, and we didn't get enough stops at the defensive end," he said.
Corrigan, who was held to six points in the second half, led the Pirates with 20 points. Jones finished with 13 points, while Nate Seffernick added seven.
For Bay, Heideloff and White each scored 12 points, while Morriss had 11 points and nine rebounds.
"In the first half, we played Rocky River's game," Shetzer said. "In the second half, we got out and ran.
"We played the tempo and style we wanted to play," Shetzer continued. "Anytime you play Rocky River, they're going to try to slow you down and make you play their tempo. They did that for two quarters tonight.
"We threw a challenge at out guys at halftime: 'If you're going to run, run. If you're not going to run, forget it because we're not going to win.' Alec came in and played probably the best game he has all season. We put him on Corrigan, and he did a great job," he said.
Bay's next challenge will be against Lakewood Tuesday night when they take on the Rangers at Harding Middle School. Avon will be at North Ridgeville, while Elyria Catholic will host Midview.
Rocky River will host Vermilion the same night.
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Click on the cameras below to view Larry's photos and video highlights from this game: