By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Patience can be a difficult skill for a high school basketball player to understand.
Even once understood, it can be even more challenging to exercise it inside of games.
On Saturday, patience paid off for Southeast senior standout Garrett Sprutte.
In the Pirates’ season and home opener against the Field Falcons, Sprutte’s first half was admittedly frustrating and one he wanted to forget.
Foul trouble throughout the opening 16 minutes limited his time on the court and impacted his rhythm, as he failed to connect on all eight of his field-goal attempts in the first half.
Even still, the Pirates managed to lead 25-23 at halftime behind the scoring punch provided by freshman Cohen Richardson.
Sprutte then took over the second half, dominating the floor on both ends to lead his Pirates to a 62-52 non-league victory over the Falcons.
Leaving the quiet first half as a distant memory, Sprutte scored 26 of his game-high 31 points in the second half to go along with his game-high 17 rebounds.
He finished the night shooting 5-of-15, but was a more efficient 5-of-7 in the second half and earned a remarkable 24 trips to the free-throw line, where he connected on 19 shots.
As a senior, who is the team’s lone returning starter, following an All-League, All-District and All-Ohio junior campaign, it was Sprutte’s patience to navigate through a unwelcome first half that allowed him to let the game come back to him in the second half and turn the momentum to Southeast’s favor.
Pirates head coach Matt Dillon was far from surprised.
“Garrett is an incredibly intelligent basketball player, and he comes from a basketball family that has helped him tremendously throughout his career,” Dillon said. “His dad really knows the game, and he has taught Garrett a lot about the game. So much so that Garrett already knows what to do when he is out there on the basketball court. It is a credit to him for how he bounced back to play the second half that he did. He was tremendous.”
After a back-and-forth first half, where both teams traded the lead, it was a game-changing 10-0 run to start the third quarter that quickly changed the perplection of the game. Points had been hard to come by in the first half, so the Pirates’ offensive spurt in the opening 2 minutes of the third quarter, which propped them up with a 35-23 lead, was profound.
Sprutte scored 13 third-quarter points, including an and-one layup and free throw that were part of a flurry of points that put the senior back on track offensively.
Southeast (1-0) pushed its lead to as many as 14 points (43-29) before the Falcons (0-1) began to push their way back into the game.
Field did it with a 10-2 run that included a series of attacking drives by Trevor Dixon, Manny Smith and Grady Eader that pulled the Falcons to within six at 45-39.
As was the recurring theme of the second half, Sprutte had the answers. Within seconds, he buried a 3-pointer and worked his way to the basket for a layup that abruptly stifled Field’s rally.
“In a game like this, once we fell behind in the beginning of the third quarter, it just became tough for us to come all the way back from that,” said Field head coach Alex Blake, who is a 2008 Southeast graduate who also played for Dillon. “Our energy level was there, but I am not sure it was always together tonight or always connected to each other. I think we got lost in our offense, which we have just spent the last 20 days practicing, for much of the game and got stuck standing around too much.”
In the first half, with Sprutte saddled with two first-quarter fouls, then picking up another in the second quarter, Richardson, a freshman playing his first-ever varsity game, helped keep the Pirates in the game.
Without deliberately taking over the scoring, with all of his opportunities emerging from within the flow of the offense, Richardson scored 16 first-half points and finished with 18 tallies. In the first half, Richardson was 5-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Three of those 3s came in the second quarter, and he scored 11 of the Pirates 14 second-quarter points.
“Cohen is a player that has worked very hard to get ready for this season, and we want to try to ease him into things and not overwhelm him,” said Dillon, who was coaching against one of his former players for the first time in his career. “With Garrett getting into early foul trouble, that really did not play out for Cohen like we thought it would tonight, but he stepped up and played some really big minutes. He helped get us to half with the score close, and overall I just thought he played a super game for a freshman.”
Sprutte and Richardson, who also had three steals and two blocked shots, were the only Southeast players to reach double-digits in scoring, with Zach Keto leading the team with five assists.
Field’s offensive leader was Dixon, who scored 13 points. Nick Papiska joined him in double figures with 12 points. Ben Stayer pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds and also had three blocked shots.