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Rough Riders struggle in season-opening loss to Explorers

Rough Riders struggle in season-opening loss to Explorers


By Phil Keren



The Kent Roosevelt boys basketball team had a tough start to their 2023-24 season on Friday night, but head coach Curtis Black is confident that his team will bounce back.

Kent Roosevelt’s Tyrell Ellinton drives against a pair of Hudson defenders during Friday’s game.
Ken Klamencic/Special to Portage Sports

“We’ll get better from here,” said Black, after his team lost to Hudson 53-30. “We’ll definitely get better.”

On the other bench, Hudson head coach Michael Brown was pleased with his team’s effort in front of the home crowd.

“I thought the guys really played well together,” said Brown. “I felt like their energy matched the crowd’s energy. (I’m) just really happy for our seniors that they could come out here in their last first game and get a win.”

Both teams seemed to have first-game jitters as each squad struggled to find the bottom of the net in the game’s opening minutes. Roosevelt’s only points of the first quarter came on a layup from senior forward Grant Leslie. Four different Hudson players — sophomore forward Nathan Judy, senior guard Fritz Trautman, senior guard Hunter Chokan and junior forward Nikola Mijovic — each tallied one basket to give the Explorers an 8-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Roosevelt players drove to the basket, drew fouls and made several trips to the free-throw line. With Hudson leading 10-4 early in the second quarter, Roosevelt junior Jaden Dennison drove to the hoop and laid it in. The Rough Riders then got a defensive stop and junior forward Ryan Slocum made one of two foul shots to cut Hudson’s lead to 10-7 with about five minutes left in the second period. After Judy hit one of two free throws, Roosevelt senior guard Tyrel Ellington knocked in two foul shots to reduce Hudson’s advantage to 11-9 with 4:12 remaining in the second quarter. This was the closest that the Rough Riders got to tying the game or taking the lead.

That’s because Hudson then went on an 8-0 run for the next two-and-a-half minutes to take a 19-9 lead. Hunter Chokan drained two 3-point shots, and senior forward Nolan Yanak made a pair of free throws. Dennison ended Hudson’s scoring streak with a 3-pointer of his own, but then Chokan swished his third 3-pointer in just 3 minutes of game time to give the Explorers a 22-12 lead.

In the first half, Black said there were “a lot of mishaps on defense, leaving shooters open, and we didn’t rebound the ball well.”

He added his team had a “lot of bad turnovers that were costly. They got in transition on us quite often and scored at will … although we kept it fairly close.”

The Rough Riders’ Tyrell Ellington lifts in the lane for a shot.
Ken Klamencic/Special to Portage Sports

Despite his team’s struggles in the first half, Black said he had a “positive” feeling about their chances heading into the second half, but Hudson again put together another scoring run.

Early in the third quarter, Roosevelt senior forward Anthony Helton scored to reduce Hudson’s lead to 24-15. After that, Hudson outscored the Rough Riders 14-3 to close out the third period with a 38-18 advantage. Hudson sophomore guard Jayden Carlton threw a pass to a cutting Chokan for a layup and Yanak scored five straight points on a driving layup, a turnaround jumper and a free throw.

“It seemed like it was an avalanche,” Black said. “But again, same kind of deal. Leaving shooters open (and) lack of rebounding.”

Brown said he was happy with his team’s effort.

“I was really proud of the way we broke their pressure and we found open, uncontested shots and that’s what we’re looking for is high percentage looks,” Brown said. “It seemed like we were getting some good shots in transition. If the fastbreak is getting us high-percentage looks, then we will (run uptempo). If it’s not, then we’ll slow it down a little bit and work for a good one.”

Black noted his team struggled with the different defensive looks that Hudson gave them during the game. The defense was a mix of man-to-man and a 3-2 zone.

“I think we were very stagnant,” Black said. “The ball kind of went from one side to the other, and we didn’t get ball reversals, we didn’t penetrate the gaps in the zone, we didn’t hit the middle. When we got good looks, we couldn’t capitalize.”

Dennison led the way in the scoring column for Roosevelt with 12 points.

“He played a great game,” Black said. “He seemed like he was the heart of us tonight.” 

Black added he thought Leslie (7 points) and Slocum also played well.

“I think those three guys definitely kept us in it,” Black said.

Hudson was led by Chokan with 15 points, while Yanak and Judy each had nine, and Carlton tallied eight.

Brown said the players enjoy their teammates’ success. At one point, Hudson was whistled for a technical foul after one of their players came off the bench to congratulate a teammate for making a 3-pointer. The made shot had tangled the net and the referee blew the whistle to stop play so the net could be untangled.

“We thought it was a timeout because we heard the whistle,” Brown said. “It was the best technical we’ve ever seen because we were being good teammates.”

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