Weekly Feature

2017-12-13 / Sports

Defense plays big role in boys hoops’ win


Clarence’s boys basketball team knew that its season-opening clash with Williamsville East was going to be no easy task, as the Flames — who had already played twice — had shown an early knack for knocking down big shots from long range.

The Red Devils refused to shy away from the challenge, however, and used big efforts in the second and fourth quarters to ultimately pull off a 52-34 victory that limited East to less than half of their average output heading into the contest on Dec. 6.

“It was definitely a good way for us to start the season, especially with them having already posted two impressive wins,” coach Doug Ratka said. “I was just really happy with how our guys responded to the fact that this had the potential for us to get in the early-season conversation about who might be good this year.”

Clarence, which used a 17-10 run in the second quarter to take a 24-18 lead at the half, forced the Flames out of their defensive comfort zone down the stretch by making a number of big three-point shots that drew East out of its 2-3 zone and into a man-to-man look. The Red Devils, who have the personnel to exploit man defensive looks, did just that in the final stanza, with River Reinhardt (16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) in particular shredding East’s defense for some critical baskets.

“We were prepared for their zone, and we hit enough shots against it earlier in the game to where they just couldn’t sit in it any longer,” Ratka said. “Once they came out of it we ran some great man plays and River really took over on offense. We just had to stay with what we had been doing defensively, and by doing so we came out on the good side of the outcome.”

Clarence, which never trailed after taking the lead midway through the second quarter, also got 16 points from Joe Olivieri, who made four three-point baskets on the night. Jack Putney chipped in with nine points and eight rebounds, while Brandon Ferris came off the bench and made a pair of big three-point baskets — his trifecta late in the third quarter gave Clarence a 33-29 edge heading into the fourth — as part of his eight-point night.

Unfortunately for Clarence, that shooting display failed to carry over to Friday’s league opener against West Seneca West, as a 2-for-12 effort from the field in the first quarter played a significant role in the Red Devils’ 21-5 deficit that would ultimately turn into a 64-47 defeat.

Clarence, which found itself in a 21-2 hole before making a late three before the end of the first quarter, was only able to get within 11 points after the first quarter in what was an overall tough night for the Red Devils. Clarence finished the first half near the 25-percent mark from the field as Ratka said that “some shots we expected to make just weren’t going down for us.”

“They just really took us out of the game in the first quarter,” Ratka said. “We just didn’t have it that day. West certainly gets credit for what they did, but we also just had a very poor shooting night. We saw this as another opportunity for us, but we did not come out well and they took it to us. It was definitely disappointing to not play well, but at the same time it was just one game — and our second game of the year at that — so hopefully we can bounce back well from that.”

Putney finished the game with 10 points and six rebounds, while Ferris added eight points for Clarence (1-1, 0-1 division), which travels to St. Mary’s of Lancaster Thursday to take on Niagara Catholic as part of the ECIC-MMA Challenge. The Red Devils last played in the Challenge a few years ago, Ratka said.

“Niagara Catholic has been playing well so far this year too, so this is another good opportunity for us to show up in a tough non-league test,” Ratka said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been in this showcase, so we’re looking forward to it. They’ll be similar in style to West, so we’ll see if we can react to it a little better than we did Friday night. We’ve got to handle their pressure well. Everyone knows we didn’t show how we want to play and how we can play Friday, so we’re excited to have another shot to do that on Thursday.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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