WESTFIELD TWP. — Dissecting opponents with unselfish, cut-heavy sets has been the calling card for Cloverleaf’s boys basketball team in what already has been a turnaround season.
On Tuesday against young, overmatched Ravenna Southeast, the Colts took off their reins and ran at will en route to a painless, fast-paced 67-47 non-league victory that was never in doubt.
Cloverleaf (11-5), which has won 9-of-10, believes it must diversify its offensive portfolio to have an opportunity to compete for the Portage Trail Conference Metro Division as well as win a game or two in the North Ridgeville Division II District.
“We like to run tempo and get our pace so we can score as many points as possible,” forward Nate Riley said. “We play good defense, but in the second half of the season teams are going to start learning our sets. They can’t learn (how to consistently defend) a fastbreak.”
As was the case against winless teams Akron North and Lincoln-West earlier in the season, the Colts started slow before going on a back-breaking scoring binge. The game against the Pirates (0-13) featured a 14-2 run in the first quarter,
fueled largely by half-court traps and a relatively new man press.
Cloverleaf held quarter leads of 20-11, 31-15 and 49-27. The Colts also had a season-high 22 assists despite not running many sets in the second half and even continued to push the pace when the junior varsity checked in with three minutes to go.
Riley had another dazzling all-around line of 10 points, a career-high 16 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks off the bench. Wing Matt Tanko and center Sylar Jones each had 15 points, while guard Brycen Holliday contributed 11 and a game-high seven assists.
With the biggest game of their lives on tap Friday at first-place Woodridge (12-4, 8-1), the Colts were pleased with how they successfully gave the Bulldogs another wrinkle to worry about.
“We’re really trying to (run) and expand so we don’t have to run as many sets,” coach Jack Banks said. “It’s something that is a work in progress. I saw some really unselfish, good things and I saw some things we really need to work on.”
Southeast played five juniors, a sophomore and four freshmen, shot 13-for-41 (.317) over the final three quarters and used a one-man, garbage-time rally by wing Jacob Klouda (game-high 23 points) to cut a 30-point deficit to 20. Hard-working center Conner Muldowney added 14 points and seven rebounds, but the rest of the team had 10 points on 5-for-23 shooting.
Cloverleaf knows all too well what the Pirates are going through. The Colts were 3-20 in 2016-17 with then-freshmen Holliday, Jones, Tanko and Cruz Severson in the rotation.
That said, they’re certainly enjoying being on the other end of blowouts.
“I love this team. We’re like a family,” Riley said. “Anything with this team makes it fun. The chemistry on the fastbreak, it’s very hard to stop.
“It feels great. Not that it’s a night off, but at the same time, it’s a night where we can prepare for the bigger teams. And it’s fantastic not getting blown out like we used to and getting our bench players in for the right reason.”
Cloverleaf 67, Southeast 47
SOUTHEAST 11 4 12 20 — 47
CLOVERLEAF 20 11 18 18 — 67
Southeast — Thomas Sharish 2-0-4, Nate Kurtz 0-0-0, Conner Muldowney 5-4-14, Jacob Klouda 7-5-23, Tristan Knock 0-0-0, Danny Boyd 1-0-2, Aidan Fischer 1-0-2, Colton Booth 0-0-0, Ty Sprutte 0-0-0, Caden Bailey 1-0-2. TOTALS: 17-9-47.
Cloverleaf — Matt Tanko 5-3-15, Nick Bailey 2-1-5, Sylar Jones 7-1-15, Brycen Holliday 3-4-11, Cruz Severson 2-0-4, Nate Riley 5-0-10, Ashton Newton 0-1-1, Tyler Webb 0-0-0, Logan Tierney 0-0-0, Blake Benko 1-0-2, Colton Doss 0-0-0, Grant Swain 2-0-4, Drew Schreck 0-0-0. TOTALS: 27-10-67.
3-point goals — Klouda 4, Tanko 2, Holliday. Rebounds — Southeast 23 (Muldowney 7), Cloverleaf 36 (Riley 16). Assists — Southeast 11 (Kurtz 4), Cloverleaf 22 (Holliday 7). Records — Southeast (0-13), Cloverleaf (11-5). Junior varsity — Cloverleaf 50, Southeast 49.