BROOKLYN — Two out of three ain’t bad, but three out of four would be better.
That’s the opportunity Black River gave itself Tuesday by routing Brooklyn 72-37 in a Patriot Athletic Conference crossover game.
The Pirates (4-17, 2-13) have won two of their last three heading into a winnable PAC Stars Division game at Brookside on Friday, while struggling Brooklyn fell to 2-18, 0-15.
“It’s going to mean a lot,” first-year Black River coach Randy Endsley II said of his team’s regular-season finale. “We’ve been talking about this being a good stretch for us. It would mean a lot heading into the tournament.”
The Pirates, who play at Smithville next Tuesday in the first round of the Wooster Division III Sectional, overcame an ugly first half to take care of business against the Hurricanes, who scored seven points or fewer in three of the four quarters.
Power forward River Wheeler led the way with 26 points and 15 rebounds — he could have had a 30-point game but went 2-for-7 at the line — and point guard Caleb Poldruhi added 16 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Center Jonathan Herb and small forward Brennan Scheck added 10 rebounds apiece as the Pirates finished with an incredible 58 boards — Brooklyn was 13-for-58 from the field and 8-for-22 at the line — and small forward Zach Hawley worked through a 1-for-9 shooting night to finish with eight points, six rebounds and a game-high three assists. There were 89 rebounds in the game.
“I just played aggressively going to the hoop and getting boards,” the 6-foot-5 Wheeler said. “I got some easy points.”
The senior hit several baseline jumpers, but got the majority of his 12 baskets on slashes to the hoop and putbacks.
“River was really good,” Endsley said. “What made him great tonight was he was aggressive on the boards. When he’s aggressive on the boards, good things happen for him.”
Thanks to 14 points from Wheeler and eight from Poldruhi, the Pirates led 35-23 after a travesty of a first half that featured a combined 42 turnovers (21 by Brooklyn), 25 fouls (13 by Black River) and 13-for-33 free throw shooting (6-for-15 by Black River).
Thirty turnovers had been committed 19 seconds into the second period on a night that featured 62 miscues in all (33 by Brooklyn), 42 fouls (22 by the Hurricanes) and a combined 24-for-53 performance at the line, where Black River heated up in the second half to finish 16-for-31.
“It was ugly,” Endsley said of the first half, “but I’m OK with that. It gave us a chance at halftime to adjust. And as ugly as it was, we were still up 12.”
The Pirates switched to a mixture of zone defenses in the second half and outscored the Hurricanes, who finished 3-for-15 on 3-pointers, 37-14 after halftime.
“We knew we had to play our game,” Wheeler said. “We weren’t playing in the first half. In the second half, we started playing as a team and getting easy shots.”
Black River now has a chance to win for the third time in four games when it plays at Brookside. The Pirates won the first meeting 75-72.
“Anybody can win any game,” Wheeler said. “That’s always the mindset.”
Black River 72, Brooklyn 37
BLACK RIVER (72): Brennan Scheck 1-0-3, River Wheeler 12-2-26, Jonathan Herb 1-1-3, Zach Hawley 1-6-8, Caleb Poldruhi 6-2-16, Garrett Hord 0-0-0, Devon McLean 1-5-7, Jay Chidsey 2-0-5, Caleb Simonson 0-0-0, Jacob Reinhardt 1-0-2, Russell Schultz 1-0-2, Kyler Foster 0-0-0. Totals 26-16-72.
BROOKLYN (37): Yamil Rivera 2-2-7, Fran Rubrete 0-0-0, Isaiah Linder 3-1-7, Isaiah Upshaw 1-0-2, Tristan Peggs 2-0-5, Hunter Majewski 3-1-8, Yareh Ramos 1-2-4, Wayne Hills 1-0-2, Robby Meadwell 0-0-0, Tim Benyo 0-2-2, Marchello Carrassellia 0-0-0, Hunter Smith 0-0-0. Totals 13-8-37.
Black River 18 17 16 21 — 72
Brooklyn 5 18 7 7 — 37
3-point goals: (Black River) Poldruhi 2, Scheck, Chidsey; (Brooklyn) Majewski, Peggs, Rivera. Rebounds: Black River 58 (Wheeler 15), Brooklyn 31 (Linder, Benyo 7). Assists: Black River 11 (Hawley 3), Brooklyn 4 (Peggs 2).
Junior varsity: Black River, 58-19.