EAST LIVERPOOL - The East Liverpool boys' basketball dropped to 0-2 on the season with a 59-31 loss to Zanesville Saturday night at Potter Fieldhouse.
Although the Potters are a young team, don't tell head coach Nate Conley that this is going to be a rebuilding year.
"This isn't a rebuilding season, but we have got to work on things," Conley said. "We're going to get better every day. A lot of people might think we are an average basketball team, and maybe we are right now. But we've got the athletes, we'll jell, it might take some time to get there."
East Liverpool’s Aaron?Long drives to the basket against Zanesville Saturday night at Potter Fieldhouse The Blue Devils defeated the Potters, 59-31. (Photo courtesy Jimmy Joe Savage)
The Potters began the game with a bang as junior guard Hayden Cunningham dropped a 3-pointer from the left side to give them an early 3-0 lead. The Blue Devils, however, would start to settle into their game as they would close out the first period with a 17-5 run to lead after one stanza at 17-8.
The Devils would methodically increase their advantage in the second quarter as the Devils' senior guard Jake Phillis would score eight of his game high 16 points, as the Devils out scored the Potters 19-6 in the stanza. The Potter would commit nine turnovers in the first half as the Devils led 36-14 at the break.
"That's the pressure that they apply, and we probably won't see pressure like that again," Conley said. "That's why we schedule these games. We could easily schedule teams where we could be 2-0 right now, but that's not getting you any better. We like the schedule we got."
"We knew they were going to be young and inexperienced," Blue Devils' head coach Scott Aronhalt explained. "So we tried to apply different kinds of pressure. Show them different kinds of traps, and keep them off-balance. Fortunately, that created a lot of turnovers and that led to us getting some easy baskets."
In the third quarter, the Potters played with a lot more consistency as they nearly doubled their first half point total. Led by senior forward Derek Thompson, the Potters tallied 13 points in the quarter. Thompson scored six of those points on two field goals and two free throws. By the end of the period, the Devils led 51-27.
"We're a young team, and in my opinion Zanesville is the best basketball team in the state of Ohio," Conley remarked. "Year after year they are solid. They have probably two Division I point guards on that team. And they really kicked our butt's tonight. We were outmatched and outmanned."
The game lost some of it's intensity by the fourth stanza as the Devils out paced the Potters 8-4, to close the contest by the final 28-point margin. The Devils led by as much as 26 points early in the period.
"We have a real nice nucleus of kids, and I know Coach Conley is doing an outstanding job," Aronhalt said. "East Liverpool did a lot of good things, they made some good shots, but when your young it's a learning process."
Cunningham would lead the Potters with 10 points on the night, Thompson chipped in with eight points.
"We're going to get better every day," Conley said. "I promised, and the kids promised that we would work as hard as we can to the last second, and that's what they did (tonight). We've got some good basketball players, and some good shooters. We've got to start pounding the ball inside and take advantage of our height."
For the Devils, other than Phillis with his 16 points, Marcus Johnson contributed 12 points on the night.
The Potters will be action again on Tuesday night when they travel to face a tough Carrollton team.