DEGRAFF — Russia showed improvement early on offense in a nonconference game on Saturday against Riverside. The Raiders didn’t put the Pirates away until late in the game, though, which coach Spencer Cordonnier said is a sign that work still remains.
Russia used a nine-point advantage after the first quarter to jump-start a 57-42 win. The teams played even from the first quarter until the final minutes of the game when Russia hit a couple of shots to stretch out the margin of victory.
Cordonnier was pleased with the defensive effort but is hoping the Raiders (4-2, 2-0 Shelby County Athletic League) can play a full game like they did during their 18-9 scoring advantage in the first quarter.
“Our offense is a work in progress,” Cordonnier said. “I thought we took a step forward this week. We had a really good first quarter and got it into the post and got some kick-outs. We scored inside and outside there. And then we went away from it again, for whatever reason.”
The loss broke a three-game winning streak for Riverside (3-3, 2-0 Northwest Central Conference). The Pirates were able to work around Russia’s defense and find good inside shots but struggled from the perimeter.
Riverside also had just four offensive rebounds despite shooting 17 for 41 (41.5 percent) from the field, which coach Seth Bodenmiller said is a credit to Russia’s defense.
“Their pressure really affected us early and often,” Bodenmiller said. “… This is probably the most pressure we’ve seen, just from the sense of being up in our face 24/7, guys in passing lanes, going after every pass, going after every shot.
“We knew coming into it they’d be like that and we’d been preaching that you have to ball-fake, you have to pass-fake, but as much as you can talk about it, you can’t really prepare for it until you’ve seen it.”
Jack Dapore scored seven of his game-high 23 points in the first quarter as Russia built its lead. The Raiders scored several early baskets on turnovers, including a steal and layup by Dapore with about five minutes left that gave Russia a 9-3 lead.
Dapore hit two free throws with 5:08 left in the second to give the Raiders a 22-14 lead. The lead hovered around 10-12 points for most of the rest of the game.
Riverside finished with 18 turnovers.
“We were down by 11 at halftime, and we gave them 10 points off turnovers in the first half,” Bodenmiller said. “Especially on uncontested layups right away, we turn the ball over at half court and they get a layup out of it. We did that five times for 10 points, so our mindset in the locker room was we could only be down by one, which changes everything.”
Riverside pulled as close as nine points in the third, but a basket by Jack Dapore midway through stretched the lead to double digits at 35-24.
“They were scrappy and they had a couple of guards that can get to the hole, and we didn’t adjust very well in backing off,” Cordonnier said. “One thing we wanted to do all night was to put pressure on them. It created some turnovers, but it also allowed them to get in the paint a little bit too much.”
Russia led 44-30 at the end of the third quarter. John Zumberger hit a 3-pointer early in the fourth to pull Riverside within 11 points, but Dapore hit two baskets down the stretch to help Russia extend the margin of victory to 15.
“For the most part, we made a lot of good plays down the stretch where if it would have been closer, we would have kept right with them,” Bodenmiller said. “That’s huge for us, going into a long break and coming off of three wins. We took that kind of as not necessarily a moral victory, but a positive note.
“… I just liked our effort and our intensity coming out of the gate right away ready to play, and we never gave up. Those are all good qualities.”
Jordan York and Hunter Cohee each added nine points for Russia, while Daniel Kearns scored eight.
“Offensively, we’ve got to keep working,” Cordonnier said. “We’ve got some really, really good teams on our schedule yet. We’ve got to be a little bit more patient offensively and work to our strengths. For some reason, we’ll do it in spurts. But we’ve got to do it for a full 32 minutes.”
One of the tough upcoming opponents for Russia is Anna on Tuesday. The Rockets (5-0, 2-0 SCAL) have averaged 75.8 points in their first five games.
Russia hadn’t played since a 41-38 overtime loss to Arcanum last Saturday. The Raiders won’t have the benefit of a week of practice to prepare for the Rockets.
“We’ll have two hours to work on them on Monday and get our game plan put together,” Cordonnier said. “Then throw the ball in the air and see what happens.
Zumberger and Lane Willoby led Riverside with 10 points each. Willoby also led the team with five rebounds.
Bodenmiller said he’s liked the improvement he’s seen from the team. He said junior guard Wyatt Auflick and senior guard Trey Lane have led the Pirates in practice.
“They’re doing a very good job of being vocal leaders in practice,” Bodenmiller said. “They’re getting the job done and leading by example. In games, they’re always talking and picking guys up.
“But it’s not just those two, it’s everybody as a whole unit. Those two stand out specifically because of the way they are, because of their personality. But we have a lot of positive energy in practice and every game.”
Riverside returns to action next Saturday at home against Greenon.