By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
It’s very early, but the Perry boys are far ahead of where they were last year record-wise. And it’s a good feeling.
Tuesday’s hard-fought 57-51 win at Riverside puts the Pirates at 2-1, 0-0. Last year, they didn’t pick up win number two until their 15th game.
Al Iacofano is in his first year as Perry’s head coach, although he assisted with the team prior to that, and knows what it was like last season.
“It feels good that we’re (over) .500 and we’re off to a good start,” Iacofano said. “We’ve had three good efforts; we battled against Wickliffe (in a loss) and we battled against Jefferson. We came into a hostile environment against a well-coached team.”
And came out on top, although it wasn’t easy. After scoring just four points in the first half, Cale Burdyshaw (8 rebounds) erupted for 15 in the second half to finish with 19. Burdyshaw converted just three field goals, but nailed 12 of 15 free throws.
Despite missing its final four attempts from the line, Perry went 21-of-32 from that venue as compared to 8-of-18 for Riverside. It won despite getting off 24 fewer shots from the floor (63-39) than its opponent.
The Pirates never let the lead get away after the early part of the second half, although the Beavers (0-2, 0-0) stayed close. A follow by Adam Hockman (10 points) cut it to 35-34, but Burdyshaw closed the fourth-quarter scoring by hitting a 3-pointer and splitting two foul shots to make it 39-34.
“We were up one,” Iacofano said. “I called a 30-second timeout and talked to my guys about finishing quarters, and (said) next time they come in and sit down with me at the end of the third quarter, we’d better have a five or six-point lead. And they came and sat down with a five-point lead.”
A three-point play by Burdyshaw pushed it to 44-36, but baskets by Chandler Smith (14 points, 7 boards), Mark Wadas (11 rebounds) and Hockman sliced it to 45-42 with more than five minutes left. However, a driving layup by Anthony Keipert (16 points) and a trey by Ryan Zalatel made it 50-42, and the margin stayed at six or more the rest of the way.
Zack Buescher blocked four shots for the Pirates. Maxx Brubaker stole the ball five times for Riverside.
Perry committed 26 turnovers to Riverside’s 20, but was able to stay composed enough times against the Beavers’ “in-your-face” defense.
“We stressed it a lot yesterday and we stressed it before the game, at halftime and even talked about it after the game — how we’ve got to compose ourselves,” Iacofano said. “We did a good job in the second half. I thought the guys composed themselves — knocked down some big free throws, had some big possessions and made some decent stops.”
Ian Illig led the Pirates with 12 points.
The Beavers hit only 20 of their 63 shots (31.7 percent from the floor). Coach Adam May said that goes toward not being in the right spots on the floor.
“One thing we did well in both games is play defensively,” May said. “But we’re just not mentally tough. We’re not a mentally tough basketball team who gets to the right spots. And that has nothing to do with skill level; it has nothing to do with how good our players are, with how well they can shoot the basketball, how well they can defense. It’s getting to the right spots.
“I think we can get better shots. I think we have to get better shots. I think that when we do and we figure out what works, it’s going to click.”
Smith scored seven of his team’s first nine points, put picked up his second foul and sat for most of the first half.
“I tell my guys that we’re better than every single team we play,” May said. “We’re also worse than every single team we play.
“I thought we were better individually tonight; we just weren’t the better team.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.