GREENFORD-In a battle of teams trying to establish an identity under new head coaches, the Western Reserve boys basketball team took a step forward Friday night, while the South Range Raiders took one back.
Junior forward Nolan Snyder scored 22 points and the Blue Devils used a 16-0 second-half run to seize control on their way to a 56-41 win in Inter-Tri County League lower tier play.
Western Reserve improves to 2-4 overall, while South Range drops to 1-7.
"Throughout the beginning of the season we've talked about how we haven't really had a game where we played hard the whole way through and tonight we did for almost the entire night," Snyder said. "Everybody came out and gave a great effort tonight."
It had been a slow start for the Blue Devils as they tried to adjust to first-year coach Patsy Daltorio as well as work in several members of the football team who had a late start after reaching the state semifinals. But on Friday, things flowed as well as they have all year.
"We have some length and athleticism to compete, it's just been a matter of getting the chemistry flowing," Daltorio said. "We've tried to preach strong fundamentals and keeping things simple. Tonight it looked a lot better."
The game was closely contested until late in the third quarter when, with South Range leading 33-30, the Devils scored 16 consecutive points and went on a 26-8 overall run to close the game. Key was the inside-outside game of Snyder, who hit a three late in the third to give the Devils a four-point lead and effectively ended the Raiders chances with a driving layup late in the fourth.
"It all started on defense for us," Snyder said. "We were really aggressive and it set up our offense. I just happened to be the one getting the ball and the shots fell."
"Nolan can be a really special player for us," Daltorio said. "He's a big strong kid who we can bounce between small and power forward. He is a very valuable weapon."
In addition to Snyder, the Devils also got valuable contributions off the bench. Lance Dezee scored 12 points and hit the three-pointer to put the Devils ahead for good, while Nick Allison scored six points and five rebounds. Joe Falasca had eight rebounds.
"Nolan is a great scorer for us, but we've needed him to keep working to get everyone involved," Daltorio said. "We will be successful based on how well we can run the offense as a team and get other guys some open shots. Tonight we were able to do that."
Western Reserve had the size advantage on South Range, but the Devils missed several close range shots in the first half, shots that began to fall late in the game as they opened up the lead.
"At halftime, we talked about making sure we caught the ball under control," Daltorio said. "We were putting it up way to quickly in the first half. We did a much better job of calming down and getting our shoulders square."
The Raiders jumped out to a 20-11 lead early in the second quarter, but were increasingly bothered by the length and athleticsm of the Blue Devils as the game wore on.
Forward Garrett Anderson led the Raiders with 16 points and eight rebounds. Nick Wiery added eight points, but no other Raider scored more than five points.
"With a young team we are still trying to identify players we can lean on in close games and we aren't there yet," Cullen said. "They have some good jumpers and they were very aggressive on the boards in the second half," South Range coach John Cullen said. "Defensively, their pressure put us in some tough situations.
In his first year with the program, Cullen has seen his young team play tough and lose several close games but was disappointed with how they responded to adversity as in the second half."
"Their guys were aggressive and we kind of took a back seat tonight," Cullen said. "They did a better job of wanting to win tonight. We can't allow that to happen again. We haven't been playing like that lately but tonight was a major step back."
The Blue Devils-with an upset of lower tier foe Mineral Ridge already to their credit-hope to keep making progress as they get back into the league schedule.
"To start off so slow and head back into the conference schedule with a win is big," Snyder said. "Usually at the end of winter break you are sluggish so this should give us a nice boost."
South Range won the jayvee game 50-34. Dylan Rutledge had 12 points for the Raiders. Cody Hilles had nine points for the Blue Devils.
W. RESERVE: 11-13-16-16-56
S. RANGE: 16-10- 7- 8-41
WESTERN RESERVE SCORING: Tristen Bova 2-0-5, Nick Allison 3-0-6, Nick Tobin 1-0-2, Joe Falasca 2-1-5, Walker Marlowe 2-0-4, Dan Zilke 0-0-0, Lance Dezee 4-2-12, Nolan Snyder 9-2-22. TEAM TOTALS: 23, 5-8: 56.
SOUTH RANGE SCORING: Mark Vennetti 2-0-5, Andrew Cullar 2-0-5, Greg Dunham 0-0-0, Cole Berry 0-1-1, Garrett Anderson 7-2-16, Turner Curry 1-0-2, Jonah Wilson 2-0-4, Nick Wiery 2-2-8, Rob Matos 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 16, 5-10: 41.
Three-point goals: Western Reserve 5 (Snyder 2, DeZee 2, Bova), South Range 4 (Wiery 2, Vennetti, Cullar).