By Phil Keren
Strong guard play and scoring in transition played key roles in Kent Roosevelt’s 51-43 win over Copley on Friday night.
Kent Roosevelt (7-5, 4-3 in Suburban-American Conference) head coach Curtis Black praised the decision making of his guards.
“They made all the right looks,” said Black. “…We had guys playing the way we want to play. Things kind of all came together tonight.”
Junior guard Jaden Dennison and junior forward Carter Foreman each scored five points in the first quarter to give the Rough Riders a 13-8 lead at the end of the opening period.
After a sold first quarter, Roosevelt struggled a bit in the second quarter and did not score a point in the final three minutes of the half.
At halftime, Black said he felt his team had some work to do. Even though they held Copley to 0-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc, Black noted Roosevelt only had a 19-16 lead at halftime.
“It’s not very good on our end,” Black said, when recounting what he told his team in the locker room. “We got to figure out how to stifle them a little bit more to try to extend our lead. It started with our defense getting out and running in transition.”
Early in the third quarter, Dennison stole the ball and made a transition layup and then had another lay-in a couple possessions later. When senior forward Jeremiah Lepp laid in another, Roosevelt had a 25-16 advantage about halfway through the third quarter.
Dennison led the way for the Rough Riders with a season-high 15 points.
“He attacked the rim, he hit a couple good 3s, he knocked it down at the free-throw line,” Black said. “That’s huge for his confidence. That’s huge to our confidence today.”
Senior guard Tyrel Ellington also made a couple big plays in the third quarter. After a Copley turnover, Ellington pushed the ball up the court, drove to the hoop and passed it off to Foreman for a layup. A couple minutes later, Ellington used a crossover dribble and made a step-back 3-pointer to give his team a 32-20 lead with about 2 minutes to go in the third quarter. Roosevelt closed out the third period with another transition bucket when senior guard Jack Smith threw a long pass to Lepp, who then finished the play with another layup.
Defensively, Roosevelt moved back and forth between man-to-man and zone looks.
“You can’t let a team like that get comfortable with all your looks,” Black said. “You’ve got to do different things and try to confuse them and try to take advantage of it.”
In the final quarter, the Rough Riders momentarily had a 13-point lead, 41-28, after senior forward Grant Leslie made a pair of free throws. Copley chipped away a bit at the lead, thanks to scoring from senior Trent Wininger and junior guard Scooby Stanford. Copley never got closer than six and that was due, in part, to Roosevelt’s strong free-throw shooting down the stretch.
In the fourth quarter, the Rough Riders made 8-of-10 foul shots, and connected on 11-of-13 attempts overall.
“I’m definitely proud,” Black said about the strong foul-shooting performance. “That’s probably my favorite number of the night.”
Black said Foreman, who had 11 points on Friday, sustained a torn ACL in both his freshman and sophomore years.
“We’re excited to have him,” Black said. “I think now he’s kind of overcome the mental block about being hurt. I think now he’s getting back to where he left off from eighth grade/early ninth grade. He’s very methodical, but he’s smart, he’s high IQ, he’s the son of a coach … he’s given us a huge boost, and we’re definitely excited that he’s healthy and playing the way he is.”
Black added he was happy to see his team get back in the winning column after back-to-back losses to Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton.
“There was no panic,” Black said. “I think we’re at a point now where we know how to win games. I think this year we know how to close out games and know how to win.”
For Copley, Wininger led all scorers with 17 points and Stanford added 12.