Highland's Collin Rittman shoots over Brunswick's Xavier Diaz during the first quarter. (RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE)
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GRANGER TWP. — The law of averages said Kyle Goessler and Zak Zografos weren’t going to play as sluggishly as they did in the first half.
That was clearly an understatement.
With the veteran leaders scoring all but four points in the second half Friday, Brunswick’s boys basketball team methodically pulled away from evenly matched Highland to register a 58-50 win in non-league action.
Zografos scored 16 of his game-high 19 points over the final 16 minutes, while Goessler pumped in 13 of his 15. They scored the first 22 second-half points for the Blue Devils, with the streak ending on a three-point play by unsung hero Alex Wyatt (career-high 16 points) that gave Brunswick its biggest lead at 50-40.
The Hornets (0-1) made the final minutes interesting, but they also couldn’t stop Goessler and Zografos when it mattered.
“We’re experienced guys,” Goessler said. “We’re coming off two years of experience, actually. At halftime Coach (Joe) Mackey challenged us a bit that we really needed to step up and carry the team a little bit.”
With the halftime score tied at 25, the Blue Devils (1-0) immediately went to work getting the 6-foot-6 Zografos the ball in the post as well as at the 3-point line. The senior responded by making three of his first four shots, including two consecutive 3-pointers.
Goessler, meanwhile, worked hard against yeoman defense from Highland’s Jarrett Smith (12 points). The All-Gazette guard, who split time at the point with Nick Felician (4 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and Xavier Diaz, surprisingly didn’t make a 3-pointer but had the move of the night when he strung together Hakeem Olajuwon-esque post moves for a leaner in the paint.
Goessler and Zografos finished the half with 29 points on 9-of-13 field goals (2-of-5 3-pointers) and 8-of-10 three throws. They had just five points (2-for-11 shooting) and five turnovers in the first.
“We both struggled first half — really bad,” Zografos said with a chuckle. “But we kept fighting. Coach just kept giving us plays to get open and do our thing. It kind of worked out.”
Highland led by three possessions multiple times early but was forced to play at Brunswick’s walk-it-up tempo for all but a few minutes.
The Hornets also had no answer for the long-armed Wyatt, who had 13 points, four rebounds, two blocks and two assists at halftime, and senior star Collin Rittman (14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals) sat the final 2:19 of the first quarter and most of the second with foul trouble and made only 5-of-16 shots against solid defense from Felician.
Role players stepped up to give the Hornets a puncher’s chance. Smith finished at the rim consistently to tie the second-highest scoring total of his career and sophomore Alex Jaworski added nine key points in the middle quarters after playing three periods in the junior varsity game.
Brunswick settled in defensively after the fast Highland start, limiting the Hornets to 13-for-39 shooting over the final three quarters. The Hornets’ last chances came down 52-47 in the final minute, when Rittman missed two 5-footers before Goessler and Zografos clinched victory at the foul line.
“I just feel like they definitely dictated the pace,” Rittman said. “We’re definitely a run-and-gun team — a lot of running up and down — and especially when we’re missing shots it’s hard to get the pace going.
“Mackey did a good job just walking it up and running their stuff. That’s what they do.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brunswick 58, Highland 50
BRUNSWICK 10 15 16 17 — 58
HIGHLAND 15 10 11 14 — 50
Brunswick — Xavier Diaz 0-1-1, Alex Wyatt 7-1-16, Zak Zografos 6-3-19, Kyle Goessler 5-5-15, Nick Felician 2-0-4, Trevor Mackey 0-0-0, Danny Dakdouk 1-0-3. TOTALS: 21-10-58.
Highland — Collin Rittman 5-3-14, Ryan Frederick 2-0-6, Landon Mazzocco 2-3-7, Jarrett Smith 5-1-12, Jake Rogers 1-0-2, Peter Gmitric 0-0-0, Cole Tessena 0-0-0, Jake Osborne 0-0-0, Alex Jaworski 4-0-9. TOTALS: 19-7-50.
3-point goals — Zografos 4, Wyatt, Dakdouk, Frederick 2, Smith, Rittman, Jaworski. Rebounds — Brunswick 32 (Zografos 11), Highland 23 (Rittman 7). Assists — Brunswick 9 (Felician 5), Highland 7 (Rogers 3). Records — Brunswick (1-0), Highland (0-1). Junior varsity — Highland 52, B