Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
While the Avon Eagles have been pretty efficient shooting the ball this season, they haven’t necessarily been known for being a prolific 3-point shooting team.
After Tuesday night’s display at North Olmsted, that’s just one more thing the Eagles’ opponents have to worry about in coming weeks.
Avon nailed 10 3-pointers, including a torrid six in a row, and got some stellar play from its bench bunch as well to get a dominating 70-43 win over North Olmsted’s Eagles in non-conference play. All 13 Avon players scored on a night where it seemed the visitors could do no wrong.
“Everyone got a chance to play tonight,” said Avon head coach Kevin Sapara, whose team moved to 10-6 overall.
“It was a great team win. We didn’t let up when we got the lead, and then we were able to extend it a little bit. We were hitting shots, playing defense, rebounding...
“We hit that many threes? We’ll take it. I don’t think you see many teams hit that many, but we’re a good-shooting team. The kids were playing free out there, we got a lot of good looks and they were nocking them down,” Sapara added.
Avon had taken a 14-5 lead after one quarter, with senior guard Jack Poyle draining the Eagles’ first trey of the night. That capped off his team’s 8-0 run that closed out the first eight minutes.
North Olmsted, under the guidance of assistant coach and longtime head coach Tim Schmotzer, battled back to start the second quarter. Senior Sean Needles drilled a trey of his own, and a baseline jumper from Billy Lucien had the hometown Eagles within five at 15-10.
That’s when it started raining purple treys in the North Olmsted gym.
It all started after 6-7 junior Walt Rauterkus scored inside. After that, however, it was six straight bombs from the 3-point line that proved to be the early knockout punch for the visitors.
Junior Brad Sprecher got things rolling for Avon with a 3-pointer out of the left corner to make it 20-10, the Eagles’ biggest lead of the night to that point. Junior guard Brian Kelly came back with another trey from the left wing, prompting Schmotzer to call a timeout with 3:55 left in the half.
That did little to stop the onslaught. Kelly struck again, nailed a trey off the dribble from the top of the key. North Olmsted, which turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, missed a pair of free throws and continued to misfire from the floor.
Avon topped off a 17-0 run with two more 3-pointers, those coming from senior Mike Pulice in the final 1:41. Jordan Wolfe hit a three for North Olmsted to beat the halftime buzzer, but it wasn’t enough to brush off the sting of a 32-13 halftime deficit.
Needles got his Eagles on the board first in the second half with a hook shot in the lane. But Avon responded with trey No. 6, that coming from Kelly. His follow-up drive down the lane for two extended the Avon lead back out to 22 at 37-15.
North Olmsted continued to struggle with its shooting, settling for just two Needles buckets and a pair of Mike Starcovic free throws in the first six minutes. Avon, with its bench already getting big minutes, kept things going with a 3-pointer from senior A.J. Kistler and a fast break bucket from senior Matt Lawrence.
With the score 47-19, North Olmsted again called timeout. But as the quarter ended, Rauterkus’ score inside had Avon comfortably ahead 51-25 heading into the final stanza.
“When you play a team like this, you know they’re hungry for a win,” Sapara said. “They beat Lakewood this year, so they obviously can play. We knew we needed to come out, take care of business and get ready for this weekend.
“Our bench getting playing time will be very important for us down the stretch. It’s not only important for this year, but for next year for our younger guys. It’s always good to get those guys in there, especially when they shoot well and can get some confidence.
“Everyone top to bottom played really well tonight,” he added.
Kelly led Avon with 13 points, while Rauterkus and Pulice added 11 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench. Poyle had eight points in limited minutes for the Eagles, who also won the rebounding battle 27-22. Pulice had seven boards, while while Poyle had six.
Needles was the game-high scorer with 18 points, but North Olmsted’s production had a steep drop off after that. Wolfe had eight points as the home team made just 16 of 47 shots for 34 percent. Ivan Velasquez had five rebounds for the Eagles.
“At one point, I think they only missed five shots late in the second half,” said Schmotzer, who was filling in for head coach Joe Smith. The Eagles’ mentor missed the game due to a business trip, according to Schmotzer.
“Coach Sapara should be very pleased with how his team played,” Schmotzer said. “I thought they shot the ball well. When I had seen them play this season, they had not shot the ball like they did tonight.
“They’re a very sound, intense defensive half-court team. I just think they’re solid team, and it’s no coincidence that they’re at the top of the West Shore Conference. For us, we had a rough start to the game. But in the second half, when the game was getting away, they were still trying to do the things we wanted.
“We were playing hard on defense. I don’t think we ever quit on the defensive end. Offensively, we lost our intensity a bit, but we’re going to keep working until we get it right,” he added.
Avon has an important WSC game Friday night at Vermilion, while North Olmsted travels to Berea.