By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
It took the Riverside Beavers a very long time to separate from Geneva on Friday night. When it did, Beavers coach Adam May attributed it to a freshman who had played very little at the varsity level previously.
“You know what the difference was?” May asked with a smile after a 58-37 win, his team’s second over the Eagles this season. “Alex Wade. I put in a kid — a freshman — who has all the ability in the world (and) has all the tools, (but) is just a little young and weak. You know what? The kid goes in there, works hard, makes the right plays and a lot of people see their jobs going bye-bye. And all of a sudden you’ve got guys at every position (hustling all over the floor).
“And I think that’s what we missed is a guy to really, really push people. And it’s not that he was a vocal leader; it’s a guy that pushes people in other ways just to be better.”
Wade, a guard, was inserted near the close of the first half and stayed in after the break. He didn’t exactly fill the stat sheet, as he finished with three points, an assist and three steals. But obviously, his presence on the floor was important.
Despite leading from wire to wire and pressuring the Eagles (0-11, 0-7 in the Premier Athletic Conference) into 42 turnovers during the night, it wasn’t until less than two minutes remained in the third quarter when Riverside (7-4, 6-2) broke it open. It ran off a string of 12 points before the period ended, and extended it to a 16-0 run to stretch a 35-31 lead to 51-31.
“It was just an energy thing,” May, a former star himself at Mentor, said. “It was just guys who wanted to be on the floor.
“I talked to the guys in the locker room at halftime and after the game about not taking anything for granted. There’s people who would die to play high school basketball. I’d give my left arm to play high school basketball again.”
Meanwhile, after the Eagles gave a good run at their first win for the second straight game, Mike Hassett, who was acting as head coach in the absence of Scott Torok, who could not be at Friday’s contest, wanted to emphasize the positives.
“We (played) fantastic defense for a little over three quarters,” Hassett said. “Near the end of the third quarter is when we got behind and had to end up going man.
“We frustrated them in our zone, and went after it. I’m very proud of them.”
The run gave the Beavers 30 points in the quarter despite tallying just 17 in the first half. Geneva had bounced back from a 15-6 deficit to trail 17-14 at the break. After closing within one at 19-18, it answered a 7-0 Riverside spurt, with all the points by Chandler Smith (11 points, 6 rebounds) with a 7-0 stretch of its own to get it back to 26-25.
The Eagles shot well when they were able to get shots off. But they could do that only 28 times, hitting 12. At the close of the third quarter, they were shooting at 55 percent (11-of-20) despite trailing 47-31.
“There’s no question our Achilles’ heel is the turnovers,” Hassett said. “Some of them are turnovers that I’m happy with. We had some nice breaks. We had the ball right there and we just lost the ball going out of bounds. About 10 or 12 of those we can live with. The other ones, we’ve just got to keep working. Guys have got to get more confidence with the ball.”
At the same time, May was frustrated that his team didn’t convert more of the early Geneva miscues into points. The Beavers went seven-of-27 from the floor in the first half, and finished at 21-of-66 (31.8 percent).
“How do you force (21) turnovers in the first half, and only score 17 points?” he said. “If you could answer that, I would love the answer. But it just shows you how much better we could be.
“It shows you how good we can be, and at the same time how far away we are. It shows you how much potential we have — how much we can do if we get our act together. It’s amazing. It’s really up to our guys how good they want to be and what they want to put into it.”
Tim Keller had three of Riverside’s seven 3-pointers for his nine points, including two of the four the Beavers made in the third quarter. Teammate Maxx Brubaker added nine points and seven boards and Jordan Nalepa seven points, while Jordan Aiken had seven points, six rebounds and five of the Beavers’ 22 thefts.
Geneva’s Vern Thompson scored 12 points after the intermission, and led everyone with 14. Zac Sweat added seven points and Matt Mackynen had two blocks for the Eagles.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.