LANCASTER — For a half, Lancaster was able to withstand Groveport’s full-court, man-to-man pressure, but in the second half, the Cruisers’ relentless defensive pressure started taking its toll.
Trailing by one at halftime, Lancaster was able to hang in there, but at the start of the third quarter, the Cruisers began to take control and seemed to wear the Gales down. Groveport steadily pulled away for a 44-33 Ohio Capital Conference-Buckeye Division win on Lancaster’s Senior Night.
Groveport’s defense had the Gales (7-9, 2-5) struggling to get any real good looks because its ball pressure was so good. The Cruisers (9-8, 4-3) forced Lancaster into 17 turnovers and scored 18 points off those miscues.
“Their defensive pressure really controlled the game and all you have to look at is we turned the ball over 17 times,” Lancaster coach Kent Riggs said. “They are quick and aggressive, and we can’t simulate that pressure in any way. When we drive the lane, we can’t have the ball stripped out of our hands. There were four or five possessions where we are on the verge of something good and the next thing you know, the ball is going the other way. We just have to be stronger with the ball.”
The Gales had a solid first quarter as Dominic Bornino scored five points, including a 3-pointer, Sam Finck and Corbin Hietikko scored inside and Tre Williams scored on a rebound bucket to give the Gales an 11-6 lead heading into the second quarter.
However, from the second quarter on, the Cruisers made the Gales work for everything, offensively. Lancaster did just enough to hang around in the second quarter and Finck hit a short jumper late in the first half to cut the margin to 19-18 at halftime.
Groveport seemed to turn up the defensive pressure even more in the third quarter, and Lancaster did not respond well to it. The Gales turned the ball over five times and managed to only attempt eight shorts in the third quarter.
The Cruisers began the second half on a 9-2 run to take a 28-20 lead and the Gales never recovered. Groveport led 31-24 at the end of the third quarter, once the Cruisers took a double-digit lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter, they were able to keep Lancaster at bay the rest of the way.
“When they are out denying every pass you throw, you have to be able to put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket and try to create some offense that way,” Riggs said. “Another big thing is to face that kind of pressure and to only shoot two free throws, you probably aren’t going to win.
“The teams we play in this league are good. You have to play well because teams are athletic, they are going to guard you hard, and if we aren’t on our game, we are going to struggle to win. We are in games, we are right there, we are making teams work, but to win, we have to play well. We just can’t have off nights and expect to beat the teams in our league.”
Hiettikko and Bornino led the Gales with 10 points each and Finck added eight points, seven rebounds and three assists.
The Gales will play three games next week and will start things off with a non-conference game at home against Westland on Tuesday. On Friday, they will host Reynoldsburg in an OCC-Buckeye Division matchup and then travel to Teays Valley on Saturday in another non-conference game.
“I still think our best basketball is ahead of us,” Riggs said.
Tom Wilson is a sports reporter for the Lancaster Eagle Gazette. Contact him at 740-689-5150 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments or story tips. Follow him on Twitter @twil2323.
This article originally appeared on Lancaster Eagle-Gazette: Lancaster can’t overcome Groveport’s defensive pressure