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Stoney Creek holds off Rochester to claim first Crosstown Showdown win at Oakland University’s O’Rena

By: Matthew B. Mowery, January 26, 2019, 12:00 am

ROCHESTER — In a rivalry game, you can never take your foot off the gas.

After building a 21-point lead in the first half of their first-ever Crosstown Showdown as a participant, Stoney Creek got away from what got it there — pounding the ball inside — and Rochester took advantage, cutting that lead down to just four in the final minute of the third quarter.

Stoney Creek answered with a 10-0 run that spilled over into the fourth, and outscored the fatiguing Falcons, 22-4, the rest of the way to claim their first Showdown win, 65-43, on the floor of Oakland University’s O’Rena.

“We came out after halftime, and I felt we were taking too many 3s, so we were giving up some run-out layups. Once we kind of laid off the 3 there in the third quarter, it started to pick up for us,” Stoney Creek coach Steve Norgrove said.

“We just needed some energy in the second half. In the first half, we played well, everybody was feeling good about the way they were playing. Second half, we came out and didn’t — and we talked about it in the locker room — we didn’t come out with the same amount of energy, and they did. We didn’t match their energy, and they did a good job of clawing their way back. We weren’t going to stop the game, and call timeout and kind of bail our guys out. We needed to play through it a little bit, so I saw a lot of maturity in our guys tonight. We made some subs, and the guys that came in off the bench came in with a ton of energy. Just put energy out there on the floor, and we got some easy run-out baskets.”

After getting three touchdowns behind early on, the Falcons put on a 12-0 spurt in the third quarter to get it back to six points, then cut it to 43-39 with 1:55 left on a 3-pointer by Cory Gulledge.

Ethan Smydra got a bucket down low to answer the Falcons’ run, then Jack Roehrig beat the third-quarter buzzer, scoring on an inbounds play to make it 47-39. Stoney Creek scored the first six points of the fourth, as well, and never looked back.

Having expended all the energy to get back into it, the Falcons didn’t score again until a cutback by Gulledge with 5:20 left in the game.

“Yeah, we were (tired). We don’t have a super long rotation, so sometimes we do get fatigued at the end. I try to strategically call timeouts, strategically back off so we can get some breaths, because we can’t go that deep, unfortunately. Sometimes, fatigue gets the best of us. I believe some of that tonight was fatigue, some was just bad execution — I’d say a good mixture of both,” Rochester coach Vance Kirkwood said of the Cougars’ metaphorical counterpunch.

“They punched us hard. It was hard for us to get back up from that punch, I guess. But that’s part of high school basketball. You’re gonna get punched. We punched them in the third quarter, and they punched us back. It’s part of basketball. The key is, how do we react to getting punched, because it’s almost inevitable that they will make a run on us. It’s almost inevitable. So how do you respond? It’s not how to stop it — because it’s almost impossible to stop in high school basketball, with 16-year-old kids — but how to we respond to it? And we didn’t respond very well. At all.”

Regardless of how it turned out, it was going to be a much-needed win for somebody: The Falcons (1-11, 0-7 OAA White) came in having lost six straight games, while the Cougars (6-7, 3-4 OAA White) had lost five of six after a 4-2 start.

Rochester had won four of the first 12 Crosstown Showdowns, including the last two, but got behind early in Friday’s 13th edition.

Marshall Emerson IV had 10 first-quarter points, as the Cougars jumped out to a 9-2 lead, then stretched it to 20-5. Much of that success came from Stoney Creek’s ability to attack the paint, where Rochester was missing 6-foot-5 senior Cameron Caggins.

“They did (attack). He’s our leading scorer, leading rebounder, leading shot-blocker, just our man in the middle, our rim-protector. He does so much for us, and we’re a different team when he’s not playing. But we still fought hard, and we gave ourselves to win it, but just down the stretch, we didn’t have the height, just didn’t have the presence to stop them inside,” Kirkwood said of his senior, who was out of town, missing the game, along with freshman Jeff Hawkins, the starting shooting guard. “He’s been giving us really good minutes. That’s two guys that play 25, 26 minutes, so it’s a different team. Obviously our rotation gets a lot shorter when we don’t have two starters. It was a lot more difficult trying to find guys to put in.”

After the 10 early points, Emerson finished with 12, while Trevor Smith Jr. had eight of his team-high 13 in the fourth quarter. Zac Jones and Patrick Ghaly had eight each, and Roehrig had seven, as 11 Cougars scored.

Ryan Noble had seven of his 12 points in the third-quarter push, while leading scorer Gulledge had six of his 21 in the third.

For Norgrove, who had attended the game as a spectator, it was a novel experience being on the floor at the O’Rena.

“Oh, my daughters have played in these games for quite a few years now, so it’s fun to be on the other end of it. It’s exciting to play here, it’s a great community event, and OU does a great job of hosting us. The community kind of comes together — that’s what I like about it, it’s a unifying event,” Norgrove said. “It was great. The bands were playing, the crowd’s here. Everybody’s all geared up for the game. Our thing was, we just wanted to stay focused on the game, because that’s what we’re here for. Everything surrounding the game is fun, but we needed to focus on the game — it’s a league game, it’s a rivalry game, so we needed to take care of business when we got between the lines.”

Even though it was the first time Stoney Creek got to play in the game, though, Norgrove argued that there wasn’t anything more for the Cougars to prove in this one than there normally is in an intracity rivalry game.

“We always feel like that, when we’re in rivalry games with teams in our own city,” he said. “These kids have grown up together, they’ve played recreational basketball together, their dads have coached plenty of the kids, so there’s a lot riding on this emotionally, and we know that.”