WESTFIELD TWP. — Small forward Nate Riley estimates the Cloverleaf boys basketball team has “about 90” offensive plays. Point guard Brycen Holliday puts the number at 70.
The Colts, by coach Jack Banks’ estimation, ran 30 to 40 sets Friday — and ran them extremely well — in defeating Ravenna 66-56 in Portage Trail Conference Metro Division action.
“He’s drawing up more as we go on,” Riley said of Banks. “A lot of them have similarities, but I’ve had to go home and draw them on note cards so I don’t mess up in the game.”
A 6-foot-6, 15-year-old sophomore, Riley executed to near perfection against the Ravens (0-7, 0-5), finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Colts improved to 4-4, 3-2.
Holliday, a 5-10 junior, had 21 points, eight boards and two assists, while 6-5 junior center Sylar Jones had 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists and 6-3 senior power forward Nick Bailey had eight points on 3-for-3 shooting, three boards and two assists.
“I like it,” Holliday said of a Cloverleaf play list that includes Sinker, St. Bonnie, Butler, Illinois, Michigan, Cavs and Hiland. “You can always get easy buckets when you execute them, even on sideline or baseline inbounds plays.
“We have a really smart team that can run all the plays.”
Holliday and Jones are in their third season as starters, and they’ll likely have to learn a few more plays before their careers are over. Ditto for Riley, who played varsity as a freshman before breaking his ankle midway through the season.
Not everyone on the varsity roster knows every play, however, so third-year coach Banks keeps a sheet highlighting the sets only certain players have learned.
“Three years of smart,” Banks said when asked how intelligent players in his system have to be. “We give them 10 or 15 per year (at the start) and we build off that. These kids can pick up all that. If they don’t, I’m like a traffic cop and I direct them where to go.”
Because Ravenna played basically half-court man with a bit of zone mixed in, the Colts were able to run many more sets than they do against a team that applies a lot of pressure. Most of them worked, as Cloverleaf shot 22-for-38 from the field (.579) for the game and went 18-for-25 at the line.
A versatile player with great length, Riley was the playmaker on a number of sets, frequently hitting Jones or Holliday with bounce passes on back-door cuts for easy layups.
“Nate’s the type of kid you could ask to do anything,” Holliday said. “He’s going to ball up regardless of the situation.”
Riley sometimes directed the offense in point guard fashion to give Holliday and guard Cruz Severson a break, and at other times he took passes just above the foul line, where he still could see over his primary defender and make decisions based on how he was being guarded.
“Most big people don’t like coming out and defending,” Banks said. “Nate is good enough to have great vision and make a pass or he can blow right by guys. It’s a nice weapon to have.”
With Riley putting up two quick assists, Holliday (8) and Jones (7) combined for 15 points as the Colts went up 21-11 after the first period. Cloverleaf, which never trailed, led 39-25 at intermission, 53-38 after three and was up 58-39 early in the fourth before getting a little sloppy down the stretch.
The outcome was never in any doubt, but Ravenna got as close as nine with 3:03 to play, mainly behind shooting guard Joey Bogo, who had seven 3-pointers while finishing with a game- and career-high 25 points.
Ravens point guard Ethan Alexander, who was averaging 15.0 points coming in, managed just four free throws while finishing with a game-high eight assists, while 6-8 center Amil Jenkins, a 12-point scorer, also finished with only four points.
“When we’re up big, we seem to let them inch back in a bit,” Riley said. “Once we stop doing that, we can be a fantastic team.”
If that means Banks has to add a few more wrinkles to his late-game spread offense, so be it.
“Winning is winning,” Holliday said. “We’re happy with it, but we’ve got to watch film and clean it up. We’re going to have games when we need to put teams away.”
A lackluster Cloverleaf junior varsity team fell 54-42. Blake Benko had 21 points for the Colts.
Contact Rick Noland at email@example.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Cloverleaf 66, Ravenna 56
RAVENNA 11 14 13 18 — 56
CLOVERLEAF 21 18 14 13 — 66
Ravenna — Donovan Kelly 3-2-8, Keishawn Jones 1-0-2, Amil Jenkins 1-2-4, Joey Bogo 8-2-25, Ethan Alexander 0-4-4, Isaiah Bradley 0-1-1, Cam Berry 0-1-1, Paul Henderson 1-0-3, Owen Whittington 2-0-6, Zech Jones 1-0-2, Ryan Franks 0-0-0. TOTALS: 17-12-56.
Cloverleaf — Nate Riley 2-5-10, Nick Bailey 3-2-8, Sylar Jones 7-5-19, Cruz Severson 1-0-3, Brycen Holliday 7-5-21, Ashton Newton 0-0-0, Tyler Webb 0-1-1, Matt Tanko 2-0-4. TOTALS: 22-18-66.
3-point goals — Bogo 7, Whittington 2, Henderson, Holliday 2, Severson, Riley. Rebounds — Ravenna 19 (Kelly 4), Cloverleaf 31 (Holliday 8). Assists — Ravenna 12 (Alexander 8), Cloverleaf 14 (Riley 5). Records — Ravenna (0-7, 0-5), Cloverleaf (4-4, 3-2). Junior varsity — Ravenna 54, Cloverleaf 42.