By: Daniel Stickradt
BOYS BASKETBALL: Stoney Creek staves off Rochester Adams
BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — Playing in three games already this season where the final score was three points or less proved to pay dividends Friday night for Rochester Stoney Creek.
The Cougars staved off rival Rochester Adams, 46-43, in an OAA crossover contest to snap a two-game skid.
Stoney Creek defeated Troy 52-51 at the buzzer, while the Cougars dropped a 58-55 decision to Grosse Pointe South and a 50-48 nail biter to Plymouth, all in late December.
“I think that Troy game really helped us. All of the close games did,” said Stoney Creek coach Steve Norgrove. “We’re learning how to manage the games and our senior guards I thought were key down the stretch. I thought Evan Becker was solid, handling the ball. He didn’t let the pressure (of Adams’ late surge) get to him. (as whole), we got to the line, made some shots. That’s what you need out of your seniors.”
Stoney Creek outscored Adams 26-23 in the second half, including sinking 4-of-6 free throws in the final 1:15, to prevail over the winless Highlanders.
Becker, a senior, connected on three free throws and junior forward Michael Melaragni split a pair with 1.5 seconds left to cap the scoring.
The Highlanders edged Stoney Creek 13-10 in the fourth quarter, including three straight buckets from 1:23 down to 26.0 seconds, the latter a jumper from senior guard Antonio Rosado that trimmed the lead down to 44-43.
Adams (0-6) missed a runner-in-the-lane with 1.5 ticks left that would have tied the game, as senior center John Gurraj was too far under the basket in the waning seconds. Following Melaragni’s free throw, junior forward Davis Reifel missed a three-pointer attempt from mid-court at the final buzzer.
The Highlanders, forced into 14 turnovers in the contest, graduated 11 players and the only returning player that received significant minutes last season — junior guard Vincent Gray — was in street clothes again with a sprained ankle. Rosado netted a game-high 17 points for the Highlanders. Gurraj added six points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots in his first game of the season for Adams.
The Highlanders were held to 18-of-49 shooting from the floor (36.8 percent), made just 3-of-5 from the charity stripe (60 percent) and 4-of-15 from three-point range (26.7 percent).
“All coaches preach defense, but it seems like our players are adjusting to what’s emphasized and they are holding each other accountable, which elevates the defense to a whole new level,” noted Norgrove, whose program won the OAA Blue Division last season and notched a program record 18 wins.
The Cougars finished 14-for-40 from the floor (35 percent) and 16-for-26 from the foul line (62 percent).
“One thing we pride ourselves in is we try to defend without fouling. I thought we did a good job with that again tonight,” added Norgrove. “Part of our (poor) free throw situation is we have to get a little more focused when we get to the line and understand the importance of the free throw, not just shooting the free throws. We’ll be able to fix that.”
The Highlanders led 10-7 after the first quarter, only to see the Cougars claw back to 20-20 at the half with a 13-10 second period.
Melaragni scored a team-high 16 points, making just 8-of-14 free throws, to go along with a game-high nine rebounds for Stoney Creek. Junior guard Nate Davis added eight points, while junior guard Andrew Carson and senior guard Tanner Dean both chipped in with six points apiece for Stoney Creek.
The learning curve for Adams continued. The Highlanders dropped their last game back on Dec. 20 in a crushing 76-23 setback to state powerhouse Clarkston.
“We had some bad turnovers (in the fourth quarter),” sighed first-year Adams coach Brad Crighton, who inherited only four varsity players and no starters from last season’s 18-6 squad that reached the Class A Sweet 16. “Two out-of-bounds plays, they’re in a zone and we had unforced turnovers. I knew we would get open looks if we ran (the plays) right. That’s part of the learning experience.We got some jitters (at the end), but we never stopped playing hard. The younger guys had some shots that we wanted them to. We just have to do a better job with the ball.”