FREMONT – Coming off a victory Tuesday night at Toledo Woodward, combined with a solid week of practice, coach John Cahill and his staff were optimistic the Little Giants boys basketball team could win consecutive games for the first time this season.
But those positive signs from practice where largely absent Friday night as Ross hosted Oregon Clay. While the Little Giants took the early lead thanks to a terrific start by Bryce Root, the offense cooled and the defense didn’t get timely stops when it needed them most as Ross lost to the Eagles 58-53.
“We didn’t play great at Woodward but we found a way to win and I thought we could parlay that into tonight but we didn’t,” Cahill said. “I thought we played a good first quarter, and we had a really good week of practice: It was challenging and it was tough. But it was like they (thought) ‘That stuff we did in practice, let’s throw it out the window and not do it.’
“We’re not getting the carry-over from practice to games and that’s on everybody,” he added. “It’s on me and it’s on them.”
The Little Giants are looking to run a motion offense, based on spacing and movement and setting screen to free up shots. Early on, that plan worked. The Little Giants shared the ball well and Root was on fire early, hitting a trio of first-quarter 3-pointers, scoring 11 points to lift Ross to a 17-11 lead after the first quarter.
Clay, on the other hand, worked its way to the free throw line early in the second quarter to chip away at the Little Giant lead and a pair of 3-pointers midway through the period gave the Eagles the lead. While Clay’s offense started to generate momentum, the efficient offense Ross showed in the first quarter disappeared.
“We ended up in a lot of series where we’re forcing the ball into the post which is not what we’re trying to do, but we decide to do it because…I don’t know why,” Cahill said.
Clay built its lead as high as nine points with less than six minutes remaining in the game. Jabryis Heidelburg then drove the lane to the basket repeatedly, either scoring layups and making his way to the free throw line. He scored seven-straight points for Ross, trimming the deficit down to four points.
The Little Giants trailed by six with under two minutes to play when Heidelburg fouled out of the game with 13 points. But with 57 seconds to play Ben Gedeon hit a 3-pointer to bring Ross within three points.
Ross applied pressure with a full-court press, but Clay handled the press well, never turned the ball over and held Ross off to preserve the victory.
“We’re not a great press team and Clay did a nice job of taking care of the ball,” Cahill said. “They’re playing a lot of sophomores who won the league as freshmen and they’re used to winning. And I don’t know if we have anybody who’s used to winning. (Assistant) coach (DeMar) Moore said it well, ‘When things are going well, we have a bounce in our step. But we don’t handle adversity well.’”
Root finished with a game-high 19 points. While Cahill was pleased by Root’s offensive performance, he believes Root is capable of more than just scoring.
“He can shoot the ball at a high clip… but I’d just like to see him be complete,” Cahill said. “I think he can be the player that makes others better and I don’t know he does a lot of that. And on the defensive end, I think he can be a really good defender and it’s something he can continue to work on. Just be a complete. He’s a talented shooter and scorer but, can he put all facets of the game together? And if he can I think he’d be a really, really good player.”
The Little Giants fall to 2-9 overall, 0-7 in the TRAC. Ross returns to the court Tuesday when the Little Giants host St. Francis (11-2, 5-2), winner of its last eight games.
Oregon Clay 58, Fremont Ross 53
OC| 11—18—14—15 58
FR| 17—9—11—16 53
OREGON CLAY (58)
Dorian Meyers 8; Derek Bolander 5; Jacob Novak 9; Noah Hagdohl 4; Frank Wagenfeald 12; Keegan Calkins 7; Jonah Kiss 6; Zion Wiggins 7.
FREMONT ROSS (53)
Hayden Lehmann 8; Jabryis Heidelburg 13; Ben Gedeon 3; Bryce Root 19; Bryce McKinstry 4; Jaevon Martin 4; LaBronze Barnett 2.
Fremont Ross 53, Oregon Clay 34
OC| 0—12—15—9 34
FR| 11-16—11—15 53
OREGON CLAY (34)
Calkins 2; Spears 12; Woollard 16; Alm 4.
FREMONT ROSS (53)
Isaac Fox 6; Tarian Burel 6; Mickey Lather 4; Josh Rhea 5; Tremaine Price 3; Jared Adkins 18; Dion Bradley 7; Jayden Scott 2; Milan 2.
Fremont Ross 26, Oregon Clay 22
OC| 2—9—5—6 22
FR| 6—4—7—9 26
OREGON CLAY (22)
Marisco 7; Long 5; Pettaway 4; Wamer 3; Fariar 3
FREMONT ROSS (26)
Kahji Pickins 4; Jaedyn Bulger 7; Kalijah Alejandro 2; Robert Shepard 2; Darrian Ayers 2; Kurt Harrison 9.