Rebels roar­ing along in win­ter’s early go­ing

South fol­lows up Lake Catholic win by staving off River­side in WRC opener

The News Herald (Willoughby, OH) - - Sports - By Jay Kron [email protected]­ald.com

South’s 10-point win over Lake Catholic on Dec. 4 may have opened some eyes among area bas­ket­ball fans, but don’t count Rebels coach Doug Bar­ber among those sur­prised.

Af­ter all, in 6-foot-6 Damion Wil­liams and 6-foot-5 Xavier Hopps, South has some stand­outs of its own to match up with the best the area has to of­fer.

Wil­liams and Hopps led the way again Dec. 7 in a West­ern Re­serve Con­fer­ence opener against vis­it­ing River­side. Wil­liams, a com­mand­ing pres­ence in the post, put to­gether a dou­ble-dou­ble with 12 points and 14 re­bounds. Hopps scored a team-high 21, in­clud­ing three clutch free throws in the fi­nal min­utes, and added seven boards as the Rebels held off a de­ter­mined rally by the Beavers, 62-58.

South (2-1, 1-0 WRC) main­tained a de­ci­sive team re­bound­ing edge of 30-17, and the Rebels’ early dom­i­nance of the paint and abil­ity to force turnovers and score in tran­si­tion led to a 17-7 lead af­ter the first quar­ter, and leads as high as 13 points in the sec­ond.

But River­side (2-2, 0-1 WRC), led by se­nior An­drew Keller’s game-high 24 points, 17 of which came in the sec­ond half, fought back possession by possession and sliced its deficit all the way down to 6058 af­ter a Keller 3-pointer with eight sec­onds re­main­ing.

Hopps con­verted two free throws, and the Rebels made one fi­nal de­fen­sive stop to hold on and claim a win in their con­fer­ence opener, and their sec­ond big win of the week de­spite miss­ing 6-foot junior stand­out Rico Small, who sus­tained an in­jury in a sea­son-open­ing loss to Glenville.

“We’re happy with the win, first off,” Bar­ber said. “It’s a con­fer­ence op­po­nent, so it’s nice to start off the con­fer­ence sea­son with a win. River­side fought, and they played hard and knocked down open shots, to their credit. We were able to turn them over, but then it seemed like we’d turn it back over. We weren’t able to cap­i­tal­ize early on the turnovers, and ex­tend that lead even fur­ther than what we had it.

“De­fen­sively, we have to get a lit­tle bit bet­ter, but over­all I’m happy with the con­fer­ence win, es­pe­cially af­ter an emo­tional win on (Dec.4).”

River­side coach Matt Gren­del cred­ited his squad with con­tin­u­ing to per­se­vere and work its way back into the game de­spite trail­ing 26-13 with three min­utes left in the sec­ond quar­ter.

“We started off slow, but I’m proud of the way the guys played from the sec­ond quar­ter on,” Gren­del said. “South is a re­ally good team, and we knew it was go­ing to be a chal­lenge com­ing in. I think in the first quar­ter, we just came out and didn’t think we could com­pete with a team of their cal­iber.

“Once our guys got more con­fi­dence and started play­ing hard, they real­ized that we have a good team here.”

River­side se­nior Jar­rod Spies­man hit a 3 to open the game, then South rat­tled off the next 11 points, capped by a dunk by Wil­liams, who cor­ralled eight re­bounds in the open­ing frame. The Rebels’ lead reached 23-10 in the sec­ond quar­ter on an­other dunk by Wil­liams, and 2613 on a 3 by se­nior Alvin

Sloan III. River­side closed the half on a 7-2 run, and trailed 28-20 at the break.

Keller scored nine points in the third quar­ter, on a pair of drives to the bas­ket, a 3 and a pair of free throws, as River­side fought its way back into the game. Beavers sopho­more Ma­son Stephens drilled his first of four 3-point­ers, draw­ing River­side within 38-36 with 1:22 left in the frame.

But back-to-back put­backs by Wil­liams and Hopps, fol­lowed by a 3 by sopho­more Will Hag­wood, who chipped in 12 points, ex­tended South’s lead to 45-36 en­ter­ing the fi­nal stanza.

“Those guys (Wil­liams and Hopps) are re­ally good. We lean on them,” Bar­ber said. “Also I think the two non­con­fer­ence games that we opened up with, Glenville and Lake Catholic, pre­pared us for this first con­fer­ence bat­tle.”

South junior Danny Gal­lagher nailed a 3 from the wing to give the Rebels their largest lead of the game, 53-39, in the fourth quar­ter, but River­side kept com­ing. Stephens and Keller com­bined for five triples in the fourth, and the Beavers whit­tled the 14-point deficit down to just two on Keller’s 3 with eight sec­onds left. But Hopps scored seven of his own in the fourth, in­clud­ing the fi­nal two free throws.

River­side shot 41 per­cent from the field (20 of 49), and con­nected on 6 of 11 from the line. Stephens fin­ished with 12 points, and Spies­man added five re­bounds for the Beavers, who will host Ken­ston on Dec.11.

“An­drew’s ex­pe­ri­ence re­ally shows. This is his third year out there start­ing for us,” Gren­del said of Keller. “He makes things eas­ier for us. He stays calm, he’s poised, and with a cou­ple sopho­mores out there, it’s good to have that lead­er­ship with (Keller) and our other se­niors.”

South shot 51 per­cent (23 of 45), and hit 8 of 15 from the line. The Rebels, who never trailed af­ter ini­tially tak­ing a 4-3 lead, will travel to Chardon for an­other WRC en­counter on Dec. 11.

“I like where we’re at,” Bar­ber said re­gard­ing his team’s start. “These last two games, we’ve won and I don’t think we were play­ing our best bas­ket­ball. That’s en­cour­ag­ing. There’s things that we need to fix, and we will fix, and we’ll keep get­ting bet­ter.”

PAUL DICICCO — FOR THE NEWS-HER­ALD

South’s Damion Wil­liams shoots over River­side’s Jar­rod Spies­man on Dec. 7. Wil­liams recorded a dou­ble­dou­ble with 12 points and 14 re­bounds.

PAUL DICICCO — FOR THE NEWS-HER­ALD

River­side’s Jar­rod Spies­man, left, vies for a re­bound Dec. 7 against South.

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