WENDELL — Cleveland used a strong second half to pull away from Corinth Holders on Friday night in a Two Rivers 3A basketball game.
The Rams led by a single point at halftime, 28-27, but opened the second half with six straight points and led by at least five points the rest of the game.
Junior Bobby Stenborg, a 6-foot-3 wing player who is one of the top talents in the league, led the Rams with a game-high 23 points.
“I talked to them at halftime about picking it up defensively,” Cleveland coach John Jacobs said. “In the first half, we gave (Corinth Holders) too many open shots. I challenged them at halftime to play better defense because offense comes from defense. They listened for a change. They are getting better, they are learning.”
Cleveland improved to 2-1 in the Two Rivers, 8-7 overall. Corinth Holders dropped to 1-2 in the league, 2-14 overall.
Turning Point: The third quarter was pivotal. Cleveland had two spurts – the 6-0 run at the beginning of the period and a 6-2 run at the end of the quarter – and took a nine-point lead into the final period.
Highlight Reel: Stenborg scored on a variety of drives for the Rams, but it was extra effort on a follow shot at the third-quarter buzzer that produced one of his biggest buckets of the night. After a pair of missed shots inside by teammates, Stenborg went up at the last instant to grab a rebound and put it back in the basket.
Unsung Hero: Cleveland coach Jacobs pointed to senior Chase Jackson and junior Donovan Wright for strong backcourt play. “Chase does a great job on defense and has pretty good instincts. Donovan Wright does a great job at the point and is patient. He handles the ball and gets the offense going.”
Corinth Holders coach Chris Davis applauded the effort of guard Tori Carmichael: “He worked hard on the defensive end and took care of the ball pretty well. I thought he did a lot of good things. He always brings us a ton of energy when he is out there.”
Putting Up Numbers: In addition to Stenborg’s 23, Cleveland got 12 points from Donovan Wright and 11 from Wanyae Hatfield. Corinth Holders was led by Jaylyn Neal with 15 points.
What Worked: The Rams moved the ball well on offense, making passes inside for open baskets on numerous occasions. “We moved the ball a little better,” Jacobs said. “If we don’t turn the ball over and are patient, we have got people who can finish around the basket.”
Corinth Holders shot the ball well from the outside in the first half against Cleveland’s zone, making four 3-pointers. “We moved the ball well on offense in the first half, particularly in the second quarter,” Davis said.
What Didn’t Work: Cleveland struggled in the second quarter on offense, letting a 16-6 advantage at the end of the first quarter dwindle to one by halftime. “We turned the ball over and we really didn’t hustle on defense (in the second quarter),” Jacobs said.
Corinth Holders had trouble with turnovers, particularly in the third period. “We didn’t execute. We have enough shooters even if they extend their zone – when we throw the ball to our team,” Davis said. “It’s been the same song after every loss. If we take care of the basketball, it’s a completely different ballgame.”
Feeling The Impact: Cleveland is a team that relies primarily on juniors, with Jackson the only senior who plays a key role. Jacobs is hopeful that his juniors won’t have to wait until their senior seasons to put together a strong season.
“Just keep getting better at what we do,” Jacobs said. “We don’t have to wait until next year. I told them we can do some things this year if we just keep getting better.”
Best Quote: “Their arms are attached to their shoulders, not their ankles,” Davis said. “If you throw a chest-high pass, they are going to hit it. I can’t draw up a defense for a turnover at the top of the key.”