Following their close six-point defeat to the Windham Bombers last Friday, the Ravens limited the Knights (0-2) to just six fourth-quarter points to ensure Rhodes' initial victory of the young season.
"I thought the kids played really hard and ran the court well," said Rhodes. "They have done everything we have asked them to do, and I think that shows out on the court.
"Our goals were to control the boards _ we wanted to push the ball and be in transition. And to make sure we get back on defense. They accomplished our objectives and it won the game for us."
Ravenna (1-1) outrebounded St. Thomas Aquinas 51-37 and also enjoyed better success at the foul line, converting 13-of-21 (62 percent) attempts compared to the Knights' 8-of-20 (40 percent) from the stripe.
The turning point of the game came in the last three minutes of the opening half when the Ravens ran off the final nine points of the second quarter to take a 29-24 edge at the intermission. Gaski scored the first seven points of the run before a Damien Fortson buzzer-beater sent the Ravens to the locker room on a high note. Gaski paced Ravenna with 13 points in the half.
"We've told Brian that he needs to shoot the ball more," said Rhodes. "We've told all the kids they need to shoot the ball more. So I've given them the green light. We're not great shooters, but if we don't put the ball up we're not going to score points."
Aquinas closed to 29-28 in the early moments of the third quarter, but could never draw even the rest of the way, though it did stay on the heels of the Ravens, trailing 41-37 at the end of the stanza.
Four quick points by 6-foot-7 center Tracey Condos gave the Ravens their largest cushion of the night at 47-39 with 3:59 remaining in the game.
Aquinas, which was paced by Andrew Donaldson's 11 points and Cory Smith's 10, crept within four points at the 1:56 mark but got no closer as Gaski hit a free toss with 34 seconds showing, and Andrew Dukes (12 points) followed with two more 10 ticks later to nail down the win.
"I was nervous when they started to make that comeback," said Rhodes of the final eight minutes, which to the rookie coach must have seemed much longer. "But the kids stepped it up and won the game. I told them don't be afraid of success, that it was right there in front of them. They just needed to reach out and take it. They did that and never backed down."
Ravenna 50, St. Thomas Aquinas 43
(At St. Thomas)
RAVENNA (50) _ Damien Fortson 1 0-0 2; Marlon Jones 1 2-2 4; Chris Rhodes 0 0-0 0; Brian Gaski 6 6-8 19; Andrew Dukes 5 2-3 12; James O'Neal 3 0-3 6; Joe Salem 0 0-0 0; Tracey Condos 2 3-5 7. Totals 18 13-21 50.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (43) _ Van Jones 2 0-0 4; Marcus Grafton 0 0-2 0; Sean Schott 1 0-0 3; Matt Smith 2 1-2 5; Steve Srmag 3 0-2 7; Cory Smith 3 4-10 10; Andrew Donaldson 4 2-2 11; John Yackshaw 1 1-2 3. Totals 16 8-20 43.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS1113136_43
Three-Point Goals _ Ravenna (1): Gaski 1. St. Thomas Aquinas (3): Schott 1, Srmag 1, Donaldson 1.
Total Rebounds _ Ravenna, 51-37
Total Fouls _ St. Thomas Aquinas, 21-20
JV Score _ St. Thomas Aquinas, 47-44