Early-season games with Alliance over the past several seasons have been a rough way for the Garaway Pirates to begin each new basketball year, but the Pirates constructed a great game and ended a six-year drought in the season opener on Dec. 1.
For one half the Garaway Pirates and Alliance Aviators fought tooth and nail as they battled back and forth in the season opener for each boys varsity basketball team in the contest in Sugarcreek.
However, Garaway head coach Terry Rowe made some nice adjustments throughout the game, and the Pirates rolled to a 71-55 win in a game that saw Garaway end a string of successes for Alliance.
The two teams battled hard early on, and the game looked like it was going to be close, but things only continued to get better for the Pirates in the second half after the two teams played to a near draw through two quarters. When Garaway guard Trevor Donaldson completely broke down an Aviator defender on a fake that sent his defender sliding backward across the floor, Donaldson really got the Pirates rolling, burying a three that brought the Pirates faithful to a roar.
BBK#ALLvGAR Donaldson doesn’t get that one to go and at the end of the 1st half Garaway leads Alliance 38-36 pic.twitter.com/c00zFVj0N6
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) December 2, 2017
The tight battle began to change midway through the third period as the Pirates used a barrage of 3-pointers to push the lead to double figures at 46-36. As Garaway continued to burn the nets, Alliance went cold, and the Pirates put the clamps on the Aviators in the paint, forcing them to fend for points from outside, where Garaway’s quickness forced Alliance into a poor shooting night.
“We felt coming in that they would be really quick, like they have been in the past,” Rowe said of Alliance. “Eventually we realized that we were as quick if not quicker than them, so we started using our speed and quickness to push tempo. They kept pressing us, and we kept breaking their press, which created some nice looks for us.”
The other thing they had to alter after the first 10 minutes of play was their interior defense. Rowe began doubling down on big-man Sarrick Sampson, and after he scored several buckets early on, Garaway shut off that avenue and short-circuited his scoring.
Meanwhile Garaway kept drilling triples to push out to a formidable 61-41 lead. Donaldson ended up canning four from downtown as did Malik Shaffer. Erik Miller added three, and Karson Schrock tacked on one. Garaway went a smoking-hot 12-of-26 from the arc in the game.
Considering the Pirates lost one of its all-time greats in Ty Hamsher as well as mountainous Joel Honigford and spot-mate Ben Mason, Rowe was curious how his smaller Pirates would survive in the paint. He got good news in game one as Ethan Roden played a key role in shutting down Sampson. He also was intrigued to see what kind of leadership would step forth, considering many of these players have been role players at the varsity level.
The answer there also was a resounding positive as players like Shafer and Donaldson showed savvy and leadership in leading the way.
“I thought we came out as a whole and brought a lot of energy and tenacity to the floor,” Rowe said.
Garaway needed it against a really good program that has beaten Garaway in the early going in each of the past six seasons by double figures. The last time Garaway defeated Alliance was in the 2010-11 season when the Pirates eked out a 51-45 victory. Since then it had been heartache until this year.
“It’s a good win for us to get on track,” Rowe said. “The bottom line is we shot the ball really well and played good defense in the second half. This is a good confidence builder for us to compete with and beat a program like Alliance. Hopefully we can keep building off of this win.”
Donaldson led the host Pirates with 17 points while Shaffer added 14 and Roden scored 10. Miller and Austin Fearon both added nine, Corey Troyer chipped in with seven and Schrock tallied five in a well-balanced Pirates’ attack. Alliance’s Tyler Johns led all scorers with 18 points.