By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
A special minute that featured successive clutch plays kept a special season rolling for the Ravenna boys basketball team.
After jumping out to a 17-5 lead in the first quarter, the Ravens stood up to a relentless Streetsboro Rockets team the rest off the way, to secure a 39-31 Metro Athletic Conference victory.
It nearly went the other way for the Ravens, with the Rockets pulling to as close as 29-28 at the 4:30 mark of the fourth quarter.
Ravens senior Pavel Henderson bumped his team’s lead to 31-28 on a steal near midcoast that he eventually converted into a nifty reverse layup, but not before losing and regaining possession of the ball a couple of times along the way. It looked like it would be a lightly contested layup for Henderson initially, then looked like he was turning the ball back over to the Rockets, then ended with a flip from underneath the hoop that would have been a tough finish for any player on any day.
Ravenna’s next basket was created from the dribble-drive of senior Maykai O’Neal, who penetrated from the left wing and then whipped a pass into the shooting pocket of senior Justice Haven, who raised from the right wing and sunk a 3 to lift Ravenna’s lead to 34-28.
Henderson then helped crate Ravenna’s next basket. He set up the offense at the top of the arc, then found senior Mason Ross on a curl cut across the middle of the key that opened up the left lane near the block. Ross caught the pass, did not take a dribble and rose up for a left-handed layup off the glass for an uncontested layup and 36-28 klead with 3:36 remaining.
Ravenna eventually sealed the game with multiple defensive stops.
The Ravens are now in a three-way tie atop the MAC standings, after Norton handed Woodridge a 49-45 loss on Friday. The Ravens (8-2), Panthers (6-2) and Bulldogs (6-2) now all have two losses each in league play.
The Ravens still play the Bulldogs and Panthers one more time each. Ravenna hosts Woodridge on Feb. 10 and then the Ravens play at Norton to close out the regular season on Nov. 17.
Ravenna head coach Marlon Jones was living in the moment, though, following Friday’s win.
“This was a big game for us. To win this means a lot to the kids,” Jones said. “We have been working hard for four years to put ourselves in a position to fight for a championship, and we are not taking anything for granted or looking past any team.”
The mentality allowed the Ravens to dominate the first quarter and gain a 17-5 lead, hitting 7-of-15 field goals and committing zero turnovers.
Meanwhile, Ravenna’s defense hounded the Rockets into 2-for-11 shooting and five turnovers.
Scoring became much tighter from that point forward for the Ravens, who made just 8-of-42 shotws after the first quarter and all 11 of the team’s turnovers came after the first eight minutes.
Streetsboro, which did itself no favors with a series of missed layups and unfinished opportunities are empty drives to the basket in the first quarter, continued to battle and adjust to the game.
The result was a shrinking deficit that the Rockets (5-8, 5-4 MAC) very nearly overcame.
“One thing about this group of kids is that they work really, really hard and they are not a group that is going to go away easily,” Streetsboro head coach Nick Marcini said. “Give Ravenna credit, they really came out and gave us problems. They are long, athletic, agressive and very good defensively. I was proud of our guys, though, they scrapped their way back into the game to give them a chance. What more can you ask for? The truth is that if you give up only 39 points in a high school basketball game, you have done enough defensively to win the game, but you have to score more than 31 points.”
Haven scored 10 of his team-high 12 points in the second half, while Ross score 11 and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds for the Ravens. Emmanuel Miller had 10 rebounds and Henderson had nine for Ravenna, which out-rebounded Streetsboro 43-25.
The Rockets’ leading scorer was Brevyn Nobles, who had 12 points.
Scoring, simply put, was at a premium in this one.
Streetsboro shot 27 percent from the field and 13 percent from 3-point range.
Ravenna shot 26 percent from the field and 14% from 3.