LAGRANGE — Turnovers put Black River’s boys basketball team in a hole it couldn’t dig out of.
Despite an improved second half from the Pirates, Keystone’s defense helped ignite plenty of fastbreak chances in a 57-40 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division win.
“They are very fundamentally sound on defense,” Black River coach Randy Endsley said. “They were getting a lot of tipped balls with us. We weren’t making the right pass and they were getting a hand on it. We made a lot of mistakes in the first half. But we’re getting better, that’s what I’m happy about. The improvement from Tuesday night to tonight is a night-and-day difference with what we put out there.”
Defense was crucial in the second quarter, when the Wildcats scored 10 points off turnovers and forced nine total. Keystone (4-1, 3-0) nearly played a clean quarter until it committed its only turnover with 7.3 seconds left.
Keystone outscored the Pirates (0-3, 0-3) 15-7 for the first five minutes of the quarter. Jonathan Herb led Black River with eight points and three rebounds in the first half, but did not play after halftime because Endsley said his left knee tightened up. Herb tore his left ACL over the summer.
“That was a huge loss,” Black River guard Caleb Poldruhi said. “He’s the biggest guy out there. Without him, it’s tough to rebound and play the game, really.”
Poldruhi ultimately led the team with 11 points — the only Pirates player in double figures — and also posted a team-high five rebounds, three of them coming in the second half with Herb on the sideline.
The Pirates found some rhythm early in the third quarter, coming out on an 8-2 run that cut the deficit to nine points. Poldruhi got things started with a coast-to-cost layup on the team’s opening possession. Black River then hit 3-of-4 free throws before Brennan Scheck connected on a 3-pointer to cap the run.
“We just slowed the ball down and that opened up a lot of good passes,” Poldruhi said. “We definitely got a lot better. We practiced our rebounding a lot. We worked hard on our rebounds tonight.”
Keystone, however, countered with an 8-2 run. Sean Saterlee gave the Wildcats a spark off the bench, securing an offensive rebound for a putback and then connecting on a nice pull-up jumper with three seconds left.
“We talked about toughness,” Endsley said of the halftime adjustment. “I challenged a few guys. I told Caleb Simonson that he was our big guy with Herb injured. We fed off of his effort out there. He did a lot of little things right, but I think we just ran out of gas.”
Contact Chris Sweeney at email@example.com. Follow him @CSweeneyCT on Twitter.
Keystone 57, Black River 40
BLACK RIVER 9 13 10 8 — 40
KEYSTONE 16 21 10 10 — 57
Black River — Brennan Scheck 2-0-6, Caleb Simonson 2-0-4, Jonathan Herb 4-0-8, Devon McLean 2-0-4, Caleb Poldruhi 5-0-11, Jay Chidsey 0-3-3, Gavin Ford 2-0-4. TOTALS: 17-3-40.
Keystone — Kevin Mealwitz 6-2-15, Matt Mealwitz 3-0-7, Jacob Shackelford 2-2-6, Ashton Waite 1-0-3, Ethan Sokolowski 1-1-3, Kollin Rodick 3-2-9, Mason Strader 1-0-2, Bryan Sayers 1-0-2, Sean Saterlee 4-1-9, Karson Cendrosky 0-1-1. TOTALS: 22-9-57.
3-point goals — Scheck 2, Poldruhi, K. Mealwitz, M. Mealwitz, Rodick, Waite. Rebounds — Black River 21 (Poldruhi 5), Keystone 34 (Shackelford 10). Records — Black River (0-3, 0-3), Keystone (4-1, 3-0). Junior varsity — Keystone 51, Black River 19.