Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
In search of their first Southwestern Conference win, the Olmsted Falls Bulldogs were looking for a spark.
Head coach Chris DeLisio found just that in Ryan Hanna.
DeLisio inserted Hanna into the starting lineup Tuesday night at Westlake, and the senior responded in a big way. He scored 20 points, all in the first half, to get the Bulldogs off and running early on their way to a 67-61 win over the Demons at the Westlake Athletic Center.
The 5-11 guard came out shooting, scoring a 3-pointer and getting a steal for two in the game's first minute. The Demons knotted the game at 5-5, but Hanna nailed another trey that gave Olmsted Falls the lead.
Turns out he was just warming up.
By the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs had built a 23-10 lead behind Hanna's 16-point outbust. He had four treys to that point, then nailed a fifth one to open the second quarter. Fellow senior Justin Maxwell joined in on the 3-point barrage as the lead grew to 29-12, then another senior guard, Troy Hurrell, nailed a pair of treys to make it 37-23.
"Ryan came out on fire tonight," DeLisio said. "When you make shots like that, it opens other things up for you and maybe covers up some other mistakes you're making. But overall, we shot the ball well."
The Bulldogs shot 14 of 28 from the floor in the half and turned the ball over just five times. But the Demons, who got their offense rolling in the second quarter, managed to close the gap to trail 40-29 at the half.
In the third quarter, Westlake cut the deficit to single digits a number of times, but could get no closer than 47-40. Another Hurrell 3-pointer and another medium-range jumper from the senior pushed the Olmsted Falls lead back to 12, 52-40, heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs went up 55-40 as senior guard Nick Fritz drained a 3-pointer from the left wing. Making his return from an injury, the Bulldog point guard proved to be a calming influence down the stretch as the Demons turned up the defensive pressure.
"Nick obviously wasn't 100 percent out there, but I thought he was a calming presence for us handling the ball, handling some of the pressure and just getting us organized," DeLisio said. "That's been a problem for us lately, not taking care of the basketball.
"It's something we've pretty hard on lately, trying to take care of the ball and be a better passing team," he said.
That work paid off Tuesday night as the Bulldogs committed just four turnovers in the final eight minutes and just 12 for the game. Still, a 3-pointer from senior Chance Sutton got Westlake to within nine, 61-52, with just over two minutes left in regulation.
A conventional play from sophomore guard Rico Tate pulled the Demons to within six at 64-58. But with 15.2 seconds left, junior Victor Hitterman hit both ends of a double bonus and senior Ryan Sosic split a pair for Falls to negate Tate's running 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Bulldogs, who were without the services of 6-4 junior Kevin Meehan (flu), evened their SWC mark at 1-1 and their regular season slate at 2-2. DeLisio said he was pleased with the way other players came in and contributed in Meehan's absence.
"We've talked to our guys about coming into the game and contributing, to do what you can do," DeLisio said.
"We had a lot of guys step up and do that tonight, especially with Kevin out. We really struggled on the boards, and Kevin really would have helped us tonight. But to come out on the road without him, and having a rough week with sickness, we're just happy to escape with a win," he said.
Hurrell added 16 points, while Sosic helped out inside with 16 points and five rebounds. His driving layup with 2:44 left in the game got the Bulldog lead back to double digits at 59-49.
"Ryan absolutely stepped up for us tonight," DeLisio said. "He plays bigger than he is, both at the offensive and defensive end. He had some huge buckets for us there at the end, along with some big rebounds and free throws."
Westlake dominated under the boards, 47-30, with senior Josh Gibson leading the way with 11 rebounds. Another senior, Cameron Brown, returned from an injury and had seven boards.
"We're so small, and we're not used to playing against teams the same size as us," Hood said with a grin.
"When we see teams like that, we feel we can go out and get some extra shots off the glass. Gibson is doing a great job with that. He and I battled with that last year because he wasn't going as hard under the glass as I expected.
"But this year, he's going harder and rebounding the ball better at both ends. Of course, Cam's pretty powerful under there to, so we did a good job there," he added.
Sutton led the Demons with 14 points, while Tate came off the bench to add 13. Junior Mark Schuler chipped in with 10 points, while junior Andris Balodis and Gibson added seven and six points, respectively.
"The main thing tonight is that we didn't stop them when we needed to," Hood said. "The second thing is we turned the ball over at crucial times. Then we didn't make big shots to close the gap when we were trying to make a run.
"Still, I'm encouraged with the resilience of our young group. I'm still getting to know them, so I'm still unsure of who, what and when. But it became clearer to me tonight. And we know that we have to play a certain way," he added.
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