Bees Sting Shoremen, But Still Share SWC Title
Brecksville downs Shoremen, 65-53
Avon Lake's Ronnie Willoughby wanted a perfect regular season, so did his teammates, and falling in the season finale to Brecksville 65-53 did sting. But after some time to reflect, he also had time to realize what he along with his Shoremen teammates had actually accomplished.
Sure it wasn't what the wanted - to be co-champions. But in retrospect, the last time an Avon Lake boys basketball team was able to claim an SWC championship, he was just a little toddler back in 1994.
"No one likes to share, everyone wants it for itself, but a share of the title is better than nothing and I will take it," Willoughby said. "It's pretty unbelievable though, I was born in 1992, there have been some great players and good teams to come through here, so to see 2011 hanging up there next year will feel pretty good."
Saturday wasn't the Shoremen's best game of the year. It may have been one of their worst since last year, but Willoughby and his teammates seemed to take something the legendary John Wooden once said.
"Things turn out best for the people who the make the best of the way things turn out."
Some say that having a big target on their back, considering they were 19-0 entering the contest played a role, and there were some in the stands who thought not playing on Friday night also could have been a factor.
Neither was the case according to Shoreman coach Eric Smith.
"The last time we played them we were able to make as few more plays and came out with the win" Smith said. " If we did this 10 times, we would probably each win five times. Today was their day. They just made a few more plays then we did."
But Smith also made a great point.
"I’m proud as hell of my kids It’s disappointing and you feel bad right now, but it’s a game," Smith said. "The sun will come up tomorrow and this is not the last basketball game we are going to play."
Smith is right, as his Shoremen (19-1, 13-1) head into Sectional play at Midview as the No. 1 seed. They will play the winner of the Berea-Olmsted Falls game next Friday evening.
The key to Avon Lake's loss was the inability of the ball to fall in the basket, especially in the first half when the team shot just 30 percent. Brecksville on the other hand, was hot with the ball, and especially deadly from three point range.
"Hitting the threes and getting a lead was huge for us, you have to do that against Avon Lake because they are a hell of a good team," Brecksville coach Steve Mehalik said.
Avon Lake did make a game of things in the second half, and got as close as four points with just under six minutes to play in the fourth quarter at 46-42 off an Eric Stuczynski basket, but that was as close as they would get to downing the Bees.
Willoughby, who reached the 1,000 point plateau for his career last Wednesday, led the Shoremen with 18 points. Stuczynski added 16, while Dan Reichlin had 14 in the contest.
It had all the feel of a playoff game, that was until the officials put the kibosh on Avon Lake's student section and told them they needed to keep quiet in the second half or be tossed from the game.
All season long, these students came to games, cheered with confidence, had various theme night, but mostly had fun. They did nothing different than other games, with the exception a referee seemed to be offended by the fact they were having good clean fun.
The sad part was Brecksville Junior Varsity team was allowed to send chants of grade point averages among other things in that same half without any repercussion from the officials.
Down but not out
"We can learn from this, everyone in our locker room took this pretty hard, and when we hit the playoffs we know we are not going to lose like that, because we will think about that moment sitting in that locker room, we don't want to do that again," Willoughby said. "But you have to give credit to Brecksville, they played really well, in the first half they hit the first five threes and were unstoppable, and they killed us on the boards and fast breaks and it was little things that hurt us real bad."