By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
The Lakeside boys knew that Stephon Ortiz could score. Now they all have first-hand knowledge of that fact.
Ortiz, lit the scoreboard for 37 points to lead Madison to a 77-73 win against the visiting Dragons on Tuesday.
The six-foot-one junior did much of his scoring from the inside, but did hit a pair of 3-pointers and went 15 of 18 from the foul line. He added six rebounds and five steals.
Brett Monty added 22 points, nine boards, four assists and four steals, as Madison (9-4, 5-3 in the Premier Athletic Conference) held off Lakeside down the stretch to win its sixth-consecutive game.
“I got into the flow of the offense, and (it was) just plays that we run and I get open,” Ortiz said. “And I thought I shot pretty well from the free-throw line.”
“Awesome ballplayer,” Lakeside coach Mark Taylor said . “He’s got all the tools. He can post up, he’s a great foul shooter. He just understands the game. He has a high basketball IQ; they can run their offense through him.”
“He’s a tough matchup because he can play inside and out,” Madison coach Pat Moran said.
For the Dragons (3-9, 2-7) it was another close loss. Like Saturday’s 68-59 defeat at University School, they converted more field goals than their opponent (31-24) but the difference came at the foul line, where the hosts again had many more attempts. The Blue Streaks sank 26 of their 38 foul shots, as compared to 6-of-11 for Lakeside.
“Coach (Dave) Negin actually puts that on our board for us — that we want to get to the line more than other people,” Moran said. “We do a pretty good job of that — attacking the rim.”
Along with that came some foul trouble, especially for Nick Meola, who picked up three in the first quarter and eventually fouled out with 2:56 left. He nevertheless put up a 15-point, 10-rebound performance in defeat. Teammate Kyle Downs added 19 points, 10 caroms, eight assists and three thefts despite also struggling with fouls.
“I’d say (there were) a couple questionable calls,” Taylor, who explained that it’s tough to compete in a one or two-possession game when there is a disparity in fouls, said. “It’s frustrating, because we’ve lost by two points, four points, four points tonight. All close losses in the league. For the most part, always about 10 fouls down in the team foul disparity. I think it’s reprehensible.”
After trailing 15-7 five minutes into the contest, Madison roared back, outscoring Lakeside 31-15 the rest of the half for a 38-32 lead. The Streaks extended it to 43-34, only to see the Dragons answer with a 15-5 burst for a 49-48 lead on a layup by Marcell Ballenger (11 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks). However, that would be the last Dragon lead.
After the score was tied at 50, an Ortiz triple set off an 8-2 spurt to end the quarter with Madison up 58-52. A trey by Emonte Parks (15 points including 3 3-pointers, 2 blocks) and a Downs layup cut it to 58-57, but the Blue Streaks responded with an 8-0 run, with Ortiz scoring six and assisting on the other two, to push it to 66-57.
However, Downs scored on a drive and Meola put back his missed free throw, and moments later a Ballenger follow sliced it to 68-65 with more than 3:30 to go. Ortiz then made four free throws, but a Ballenger layup, and about a minute later, a Parks jumper, made it 72-69.
Ortiz (9-of-10 from the line in the fourth quarter) split a pair of foul shots at the 1:21 mark, and two Aaron Petrucelli free throws made it 75-69 six seconds later. Downs answered with a layup, but a follow by Monty made it 77-71.
“We’ve had the same situation twice now,” Moran said. “We’ve had where we get (the lead) up to nine, and we didn’t defend anybody. I told our guys we need to get better at that end of the floor. I don’t think it’s a lack of things being taught to them; it’s just making a commitment at that end of the floor. The mark of any great team is being a defensive juggernaut. We’ve got to really get it done at the end of the floor in order to keep winning.”
Lakeside turned the ball over 18 times before the break, and 31 overall. Madison had 27 miscues.
“When we turn the ball over like we did in the first half, we’re going to be fighting uphill,” Taylor said. “When you come back, a lot of times you think you have momentum. But a lot of times you expend so much energy climbing the mountain that by the time you get to the top you kind of let up and you’re exhausted.
“I thought we had nothing left in the gas tank.”
Taylor related that Downs played with a pulled quad muscle, and was also a vocal leader.
“I thought Kyle Downs gave us a heck of an effort,” he said. “Awesome heart, awesome play. He’s our leader as a captain, and he showed it tonight.”
Petrucelli had five of Madison’s 21 steals.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.