By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Rocky River boys basketball team knew what it had to do to clinch the West Shore Conference championship. In the immortal words of long time Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, “Just win, baby,”and win, they did, 55-43, over Lakewood on Thursday night in the battle of the bridge, and grabbed a share the WSC title, along with Avon.
“I’m just tremendously proud of our kids,” Rocky River head coach Michael Murray said. “It’s just been a pleasure (to coach them) this season and you just see all the hard work and effort they put in, and for them to accomplish their goal (of a conference championship), I’m just so proud of them.
“This is just a fun team to be around,” he added. “They come to practice every day willing to work and willing to get better. I think, right now, we are playing our best basketball and that’s a tribute to our seniors and the rest of the kids on the team.”
Rocky River (13-8, 12-2 in the WSC) came out with fire and intensity on defense, as they held Lakewood to just two points in the first quarter, and 15 points in the first half. Lakewood mounted a third-quarter comeback bid, closing the scoring gap to single-didgits, but the Pirates held strong and put the Rangers away for good in the fourth quarter.
“That’s the key to this team, our team is mentally and physically tough, and we’ve had a lot of close games, so that has molded us into not getting into panic mode,” Murray said. “You could see it in our kids. They just kept fighting and fighting.
“We didn’t get our heads down, and that’s the way we’ve been playing all season. We fly around, we play solid defense and our kids really hustle. When you do that, you are going to have a chance to win on any night.”
Rocky River senior Richard Bremkamp led all scoring in the game with 17 points, followed by Ryan McCrone with 16, including four 3-point shots in the game, with three of them coming in the waning seconds of the first half.
“Ryan has been a leader for us, not only this year, but he’s played for us a number of years now, and I’m proud of how he’s grown as a player and a person,” Murray said. “He had a great game tonight, but he’s been playing well all season.”
Also scoring in double digits for the Pirates was Michael Dickey, with 10 points.
Juniors Mike Angers and Cameron Silver led Lakewood in scoring with 11 points and 10 points, respectively. Nine of Angers’ 11 points came via the 3-point shot.
For Lakewood (13-8, 8-6 in the WSC), after the first quarter the Rangers settled down, but the hole they dug themselves was too big to surmount and there are questions the team needs to answer before going into the postseason.
“You spot a team 15 points in the first quarter, it’s always something you’ll have to dig out of,” Lakewood head coach Alex Cammock said. “We did not believe that we were not going to come back in this game.”
Lakewood is the No. 3 seed in the Broadview Heights bracket of the Division I district tournament and will open postseason play on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of the game between Berea and Valley Forge high schools.
Rocky River is the No. 3 seed in the Westlake bracket of the Division II district tournament and open postseason play on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of the game between Vermilion and Oberlin.