Garaway Boys Basketball

Pirates fend off a big challenge from Generals in 84-70 win

Austin Fearon comes off the bench to spur Pirates to win

Ridgewood boys head basketball coach Jamie McCrea is starting to wonder what he has to do to get his Generals over the hump in facing the Inter-Valley Conference’s top contenders. After making a run at Hiland and coming up just short, the Generals traveled to Sugarcreek to face the Garaway Pirates on Friday, Dec. 15. The Generals took command early, but the Pirates came storming back to take a commanding lead, only to see Ridgewood claw its way back into contention. However, in the end the Pirates hot shooting and guard play ruled the day, and Garaway sent Ridgewood home with an 84-70 loss that was closer than the final score might indicate.

“Turnovers continue to be our bugaboo, but credit their defensive effort for a lot of that,” McCrea said. “Kudos to coach Rowe and his kids because they came out and played well. They anticipate so well. They applied lots of pressure on us early during the time they pulled ahead. I thought our kids responded well in the second half, but we have to cut down on our turnovers and take better care of the ball.”

Ridgewood came out and looked great, ramming its way to a 7-2 lead. However, every time Ridgewood tried to extend its lead, it seemed like Ethan Roden was there to keep Garaway close.

“We finally got some big stops and found the hot hand, and we finally got going after a slow start,” Garaway head coach Terry Rowe said.

Trailing 12-6, Garaway got a bucket from Austin Fearon, another from Corey Troyer and then Roden capped off the run to tie the game at 12. Ridgewood’s star Chase Griffith hit a jumper, but Fearon nailed a 3-pointer, and Erik Miller scored inside to give Garaway a 17-14 lead through one quarter.

The Pirates inched out to a 30-20 lead in the second quarter when Trevor Donaldson scored seven points and then his three-ball, eventually moved the lead out to 33-22. At that point it became Malik Shaffer time as the Garaway senior guard took command of the offense. Shaffer hit three late 3-pointers to give the Pirates a 44-33 advantage heading into the half.

Carson Schrock and Donaldson both knocked down threes early in the second half, and suddenly the Pirates had a comfortable 58-43 lead. Only it was about to get a lot less comfy. Griffith rained down a pair of 3-pointers. Then Kaden Smith hit a couple of free throws, and just like that the lead was down to eight at 62-54. However, the Pirates got a huge boost when Fearon grabbed a miss at the buzzer and hit a reverse lay-in to make it 64-54 heading into the final frame.

That fired up the Garaway gymnasium, but it seemed to spark Fearon, who was almost unstoppable early in the fourth period as he continued making big plays. However, led by Griffith, the Generals kept battling, and when Trey Stoffer ripped a trey, the lead was down to five at 72-67.

“I liked our composure tonight when they made their runs,” Rowe said. “We kept making some key shots when we had to have them.”

But as he had done so much in this contest, Fearon stepped up big and scored on a drive.

“I just try to bring energy off the bench, get my teammates the ball and get us going when I come into the game,” Fearon said. “My teammates got me the ball in great position tonight, and I found some good lanes to the bucket. When Corey and I come into the game, we try to play as fast as we can to create some havoc.”

Rowe said having the luxury of bringing two talented, explosive players off the bench is a luxury that most teams don’t possess.

“We’ve got a couple of kids who could start for a lot of teams,” Rowe said. “But I love having those two guys come in off the bench a few minutes into the game because they bring so much energy. When they come in, the tempo just goes up another notch because of their speed.”

That seemed to take the wind out of Ridgewood, which would score just two more points over the final two minutes as Donaldson and Roden put the finishing touches on Garaway’s win, improving their record to 3-1. In those four games the Pirates have not scored less than 65 points and have eclipsed 80 twice.

“We had different guys get hot at different times tonight,” Rowe said. “We were fortunate to put five guys in double figures tonight, and we have been able to really get scoring from a lot of different places so far this year. Tonight Trevor and Austin got hot late when we had to have it.”

Ridgewood has now played four of the top teams in the Inter-Valley Conference, having lost close contests to Garaway, Hiland and Malvern and beating East Canton by two. They will cap off their incredibly difficult start to their season by facing Indian Valley, the other top-tier team that beat Garaway by 10.

“These kids continue to work hard to get where they want to be,” McCrea said. “They are battling to get this program back to where we want it to be, and we are going to be fine. We have had a very difficult early-season schedule, but it is only going to make us better in the long run. It’s always hard to lose games when your kids give such a good effort. Our effort to prepare to win has been excellent. While losing close games is frustrating, I like the directions we’re headed.”

Griffith, who has scored more than 20 points in all four of the Generals’ games, led all scorers with 27 points. Stoffer added 16, Zach Wright had a 12-point night and Smith added 11. The Pirates posted five guys in double figures, led by Donaldson’s 23. Fearon came off the bench to net 21 points, Shaffer scored 13, and Roden and Troyer each netted 10, Troyer’s points also coming off the bench, making he and Fearon a feared and troublesome duo off of Rowe’s bench.

But Rowe said he likes what Ridgewood is doing and said they are going to be dangerous as the season progresses.

“The Griffith boy can play,” Rowe said. “He’s played four games this year and been over 20 every time. We tried everything to stop him tonight, and he still had 27. Stoffer and Wright both played well, and they were tough to defend, so we will definitely take this win. It was a good win against a good team.”

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