By Amy Rutledge
“I think it was rough on both ends of the court,” said Pirates head coach Mike Murray. “Avon really came at us, and they’re playing well coming down the stretch. This is our inconsistency that we saw during the season.
“We did well against Valley Forge earlier in the week,” he added. “While the final score might say 11, it wasn’t even that close.”
The Pirates (10-7, 6-4 in the West Shore Conference) started to see trouble as a turnover allowed Avon to put up five straight points halfway through the first quarter, giving them a five point lead over the Pirates. The Eagles (10-6, 6-2 in the WSC) used the second quarter to stretch their lead from five points to 12. A pair of baskets and two successful foul shots by the Eagles’ Claude Gray brought Avon to a 23-12 lead, and the Pirates to an 11-point hole.
The Pirates were weak with their shooting throughout the entire game, struggling to get past the Eagles defense and find open shots. Free throws also did not work in their favor as they were barely over 50 percent at the line.
“I think we missed shots that we normally make,” Murray said. “They took some good shots and we got down, but we can’t let that affect us on the defensive end. They had guys running open all night long and if you’re not going to defend, it’s going to be a long night for us. Offensively we just started standing.”
Back and forth scoring in the third quarter shortened the gap to five points, but the Pirates couldn’t keep up and dig themselves out of the hole, and allowed Avon to finish the quarter with an 11 point lead.
“Even when we cut it to five you could tell we were working so hard,” Murray said. “There were no easy baskets. For the most part we were trying to refocus. It seemed like we had kids in the wrong place at both ends of the court and we aren’t going to have success when we do that.
“That’s not characteristic to the way we play.”
Two consecutive fouls after turnovers by the Eagles allowed the Pirates to add to their score, but didn’t give them enough time to close the gap. The Pirates may have had a second chance to come back when Avon’s leading scorer Gray fouled out in the fourth quarter, but with only a minute and a half left in the game, and a 10 point lead for the Eagles, there wasn’t enough time for a Pirate run.
“You have to credit them,” Murray said. “I thought they played very physical. Their kids played well. I thought (Ryan) Poyle did a real nice job of handling the basketball. (Mike) Maloney hit some shots tonight. They ran what they wanted to and got where they wanted to go.”
The Pirates were led by Joey Kinsley and Jonathan Lihani, with 14 points each. Tim Smith added five points and Brian Thorn had three points.