By Amy Rutledge
In a West Shore Conference matchup, the Rocky River Pirates secured a solid victory over the North Ridgeville Rangers 63-38.
“It was a good victory,” said head coach Michael Murray. “We’ve been playing better basketball. It was a little tough there in the first quarter, but our defense really stepped it up and starting creating turnovers, and then we got rolling.”
Despite the victory, Murray was not pleased with the team’s free throw percentage, sinking only 13 of 24 attempts.
“I think some of those missed free throws and missed easy shots kind of got us off to not a great start,” he said. “I didn’t like our demeanor we had taking the free throws in the first quarter. We didn’t go to the line with a lot of confidence and that’s something we will have to correct in practice. It got us off to a slow start.”
The Pirates were led by seniors Jonathan Lihani and Joey Kinsley, who had 10 and 12 points, respectively.
“Jonathan is the ultimate hustle guy,” Murray said. “He’s always all over the court. He does a lot of things. I was really proud of both his offensive and defensive game.
“Joey, we were able to isolate him and get him into the stretch of the defense, because he’s a forward who can shoot and also go inside,” he added. “He did a great job the first half on the offensive boards. He got a couple rebounds that got us some baskets.
“We are at our best when we share the basketball. That was our ammo last year. The ball is finding kids in the right spots and we are aggressive. I was proud of that.”
With Rocky River’s 10 seniors to North Ridgeville’s four, experience played a huge role in the game.
“I liked our attitude through the game,” Murray stated. “We stayed focused.
“I have a lot of respect for them (North Ridgeville). Their guards played hard. Our experience took over. They got out and took the lead quickly, but you can see we didn’t panic, and I think we started wearing them out when we took that run in the second quarter. We reminded the kids during the timeouts to just play basketball. You can’t try and get it back all at once. Don’t get anxious and don’t force things.”
The Pirates improved their conference record to 3-2 and 5-5 overall. Even with a couple of losses, the team still has a conference championship in their sights.
“We wish we were a little bit better, but we like where we’re at right now,” Murray said. “We’ve played some really good teams. We still control our destiny. We were champions last year. We’re down a few games, but we still haven’t played some of our teams. It’s going to be a tough league. This will be one of those years where you’re going to have a couple losses win the league.”