Rangers victorious over Avon Lake

Despite some early-season success, the Lakewood boys basketball team found themselves in need of a win.

The Rangers had been without injured scoring guard Jacob Schmidt after the Dec. 14 game with North Ridgeville. They managed West Shore Conference wins over Elyria Catholic and Vermilion, but lost their first game of the season a week ago against previously winless North Olmsted.

Next up was Avon Lake, which came to town Saturday night having won four of its last five games. The Shoremen were coming off a dominating 52-27 win over Amherst in Southwestern Conference action Friday night.

Lakewood proved up to the task. The Rangers, after trailing early, used a combination of full-court pressure and hot shooting to take out the Shoremen, 70-53, and move to 8-1 on the season.

“The big event for us this game is that we came back after playing so poorly against North Olmsted,” admitted Rangers head coach Phil Argento. “We came back with a little fire, and that was great to see.

“We’ve lost Schmidt,” he added, revealing that his junior guard will have surgery. “I think we’ve adjusted to the fact that we’ve lost a good player. For example, they came out in the fourth quarter and gave us a run with a three and a steal, but we answered that.

“But basketball is played in spurts. I was pleased that our kids kept their focus and took care running the spread offense and ran some clock. That’s what we’ve been trying to do, improve our basketball IQ. We made some strides in that area tonight,” he added.

Avon Lake came out strong in a game that was played baseline to baseline for vitually the entire 32 minutes. The Shoremen ended the quarter on back-to-back 3-pointers from juniors Christian Jones and Brad Hamilton to take a 14-10 lead.

But the Rangers turned up the full-court pressure a notch or two in the second quarter, which seemed to ignite their efforts on the offensive end.

Junior guard Shawn McDonald opened things up with a 3-pointer of his own, then sophomore Nick Porter – just promoted from the junior varsity – hit a pair of free throws to give the Rangers a 15-14 lead. Avon Lake’s Jake Aiello countered with a baseline jumper, but Lakewood senior Pete Nelson answered with a bucket on a baseline drive to put the Rangers back up by one.

As it turned out, that driving layup put the Rangers on top for good. A drive for two by junior Tyshawn Goolsby was followed by a steal and slam dunk by 6-5 junior Cameron Silver. Avon Lake head coach Eric Smith called timeout with 5:01 left in the half, but the Lakewood momentum continued to build.

Seth Muck hit a driving layup for the Shoremen, but nelson responded with his first of two treys on the night to make it 24-18, Rangers. After a Shoremen free throw, Goolsby scored on an inbounds play, then Porter made his first varsity basket, a 3-pointer from the left corner.

Meanwhile, the turnovers kept piling up for Avon Lake. The Shoremen had nine turnovers in the quarter, which limited their opportunities offensively. They managed just nine shots from the floor, while Lakewood went nine of 13 attempts in taking a 33-22 halftime lead.

“We both like to come out man-to-man and trap out of that,” Argento said. “We like to do a couple of full-court presses to see which one is going to work. But basically we’re a man-to-man team and so are they.

“We zoned them a bit to try and give them a different look, because what you do is you test a team’s basketball IQ. I’ve seen them play a couple of times this year, and they’re a smart team, a good team.

“I don’t know if their game last night took a lot out of them, but we watched that game and they just really buried Amherst,” he added.

But on this night, it was the Rangers who had the shovel. They forced another eight turnovers in the third quarter, limiting Avon Lake to just eight shots. Lakewood continued hot offensively, hitting 10 of 17 shots in a 28-point outburst.

Treys from junior guard Mike Angers, McDonald and Nelson helped push the lead out to 61-39 heading into the fourth quarter. The Shoremen managed a 7-0 run in the fourth on two buckets inside from Muck and a 3-pointer from Jones.

But at 63-46 and 4:27 remaining, the Rangers regrouped and finished out the 17-point win.

“They’re a team that gives us match up problems,” Smith said. “They basically play five guards, and that’s hard to match up with at times. They exploited that weakness. They were able to go small and take us out of some things.

“The other thing that was very evident is that you could tell which team played a game last night and which one didn’t. But we’ll be alright. In the grand scheme of things, this was just one game. They’re an outstanding basketball team.

“We’ll come back and get better,” he added.

Avon Lake placed three players in doubles figures with Jones scoring a game-high 22 points. Hamilton added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Muck chipped in with 10 points. Jimmy Hessel had seven rebounds but was plagued by foul trouble most of the night.

For Lakewood, McDonald led a balanced Ranger attack with 19 points. Angers had 15 points and played a solid floor game, while Nelson and Porter added 12 and 10 points, respectively. Argento acknowledged the play of Angers and Porter.

“Angers has only played nine games with us now, but that was definitely his best game as a Lakewood Ranger,” Argento said of his 5-4 junior guard. “And I don’t think Nick has a conscience. I don’t think he gets rattled, so playing varsity is just another game for him.”

Argento said his team can now turn its focus on WSC games next week with Midview and Rocky River.

“The problem at Christmas and the holidays is you don’t know the schedule the kids are keeping,” he said. “It’s good to get everybody back, get them going and ready to play two games in the conference next week,” he added.

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