Despite going nearly the first six minutes of the game without a basket and shooting a paltry 29 percent for the night, the Kent Roosevelt Rough Riders still had more than enough to overhaul the Ravenna Ravens 57-37 in a Western Reserve Conference South Division contest Friday at Roosevelt High School.
Ravenna, which dropped its 14th straight game to fall to 1-15 overall and 0-9 in the WRC South, held the Rough Riders to a mere two free throws in the opening 5:45 as the Ravens built an 8-2 advantage.
"This might be the first time in a long time that we have come out and played that well at the beginning of the game," said Ravenna coach Robert Rhodes. "The kids seemed really focused. It's a big rivalry, and the emotions were high."
But once the Rough Riders (10-7, 4-5) got going late in the stanza, they never looked behind them in sweeping the season series from their backyard neighbors.
"Our decision-making wasn't the greatest early on, and I think we rushed some shots," said Kent Roosevelt coach Tom Larkin. "We didn't let the game come to us."
The Kent Roosevelt coach was also quick to point to the inspired play of the Ravens as an obstacle for his team.
"I'll tell you one thing, I give a lot of credit to coach Rhodes," said Larkin. "You can tell he hasn't quit coaching. The difference from the last game (Kent Roosevelt won 88-38 Jan. 5 at Ravenna) to this game is incredible. I really admire the way the Ravens played tonight and the effort they gave."
Fittingly, it was Ernie Cobbin's short jumper at the 2:15 mark of the first period that commenced a 9-0 Kent Roosevelt spurt that put the Rough Riders on top 11-8 after the quarter.
The senior forward quietly led the way for Larkin's squad with 27 points, while senior guard John Cegledy was next with eight points. However it was Cobbin's team-high 17 rebounds which sparked a decisive 50-31 Kent Roosevelt advantage on the glass that was the story of this game.
"The bottom line is, according to our stats, we shot 29 percent tonight, 19-of-66," said Larkin. "Any time you shoot 29 percent from the field, and you win by 20, you have to feel pretty fortunate."
Said Rhodes of the Rough Riders' domination of the boards, "We were outmuscled underneath, and that just kills us. We need to use our speed whenever the ball is tipped to get those loose balls."
Ravenna, led in scoring by Damien Fortson with 11 points and Brian Gaski with nine, used a Fortson three-point play with 3:26 remaining to draw within one point of the Rough Riders. A Cegledy 3-pointer, however, started a quick seven-point run that powered Kent Roosevelt to a 28-21 lead at the half.
Cobbin tallied eight points in the third quarter as the Rough Riders moved the margin into double digits, leading 43-30 after 24 minutes.
The victory ensured the Rough Riders of a winning regular season. They have games versus Hudson and St. Thomas Aquinas to close out the campaign, before going on the road for the WRC playoffs.
In Larkin's view, the work ethic that his kids displayed on the glass Friday night is what has got them to this point.
"It's a credit to the players and how hard they have worked and the dedication they have put in," he said. "Not just this year; the commitment these kids have made since middle school has been outstanding. They kept the faith and kept believing in each other and themselves. We have seen them not only mature as people off the floor, but as players also. That shows in the record. Each year we have made great progress."