STREETSBORO — Jack Banks tried his best to hold back tears as his players celebrated. When they joined him for a postgame huddle, there weren’t many dry eyes on the court.
Victory No. 16 was sweet, indeed, for the Cloverleaf boys basketball team.
Sophomore forward Nate Riley went 6-for-6 at the foul line in the fourth quarter and made two huge late defensive plays Friday, leading the Colts to a 55-48 win over Streetsboro in Portage Trail Conference Metro Division action.
Riley scored eight of his 11 points in the final period, while junior guard Brycen Holliday made 7-of-8 free throws over the last 90 seconds as Cloverleaf (16-6, 10-4) won for the 14th time in 16 games and continued its winningest season in 31 years.
“It means the world for everything to play out the way it has for us,” said Riley, who also recorded four rebounds, four assists and three resounding blocks. “Everything that we’ve worked for since we started playing together in third grade is coming true. This has been such a special season for all of us. We don’t want it to end anytime soon.”
Junior forward Sylar Jones and Holliday shared team-high honors with 13 points apiece, junior swingman Matt Tanko added 11 points off the bench and senior forward Nick Bailey led all players with nine rebounds.
The Colts ended the regular season by holding 11 straight opponents below 50 points — locking up second place in the PTC Metro in the process — and won at Streetsboro for the first time in Banks’ three seasons at the helm.
“Tonight really was the culmination of everything that’s happened over the last three years, especially here, where our last two trips haven’t been very pleasant,” Banks said. “We’ve kind of been the feel good story of the year, but now I think it’s time we start to get credit as one of the best defensive teams in the area.”
Cloverleaf led 7-2 after a mutually sluggish first quarter and took a 23-16 advantage into the half. Back-to-back three-point plays by Holliday early in the third put the Colts ahead 31-18 before Arnold Jenkins triggered a Rockets comeback.
The senior guard buried four 3-pointers over the next seven minutes to pull Streetsboro (9-13, 8-6) into a 39-39 tie. Jenkins finished with a game-best 19 points and made 5-of-7 treys.
Junior forward Krys Riley-Richardson powered home a pair of baskets in the paint to put the Rockets ahead 41-40 and 43-42, but Riley and the Colts’ defense took over in the final five minutes.
Riley put Cloverleaf back ahead with two free throws, then stole the ball under the basket and earned another trip to the charity stripe. He calmly made two more to extend the Colts’ lead to 46-43 with 2:59 left, which loomed large as their pressure forced three consecutive turnovers.
“We know each other’s tendencies and we know how to utilize all of our strengths on the court, both offensively and defensively,” Riley said. “Unselfish basketball is the best basketball because it’s the most fun, and we definitely know how to have fun out there together.”
Holliday and Riley subsequently put the win on ice from the line, where Cloverleaf was 14-of-18 in the fourth and 20-of-28 for the contest. The aforementioned duo and Jones accounted for all 16 Colts points in the last quarter, with Riley making the lone hoop.
Sophomore guard Zamar Harris also reached double-digits for Streetsboro with 13 points, including three 3-pointers, and had four assists. Riley and junior point guard Cruz Severson paced the Colts with four assists apiece.
“Chemistry means everything with these kids,” Banks said. “It wasn’t my coaching. It was everything they’ve put into this game playing together for the last six to eight years.
“That’s why I wanted to have Coach (Ryan) Holliday address them in the locker room. He’s coached them since they were third-graders and is a big part of this program (as junior varsity coach). I am so happy for him and for the boys right now. I’m just happy about everything.”
Streetsboro won the junior varsity game 72-54. Freshman Blake Benko scored 17 points and sophomore Colin Andel had 13 for the Colts.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @BrianDulik on Twitter.
Cloverleaf 55, Streetsboro 48
CLOVERLEAF 7 16 16 16 — 55
STREETSBORO 2 14 20 12 — 48
Cloverleaf — Nate Riley 2-7-11, Nick Bailey 1-1-3, Sylar Jones 6-1-13, Brycen Holliday 2-9-13, Cruz Severson 2-0-4, Matt Tanko 3-2-11. TOTALS: 16-20-55.
Streetsboro — Deonte Lewis 2-2-6, Jalen Hardy 0-0-0, Hunter Schuller 1-0-2, Arnold Jenkins 6-2-19, Cody Cipra 0-0-0, Donny Washington 0-0-0, Zamar Harris 4-2-13, Devin Reese 0-2-2, Colin Boldin 0-0-0, Krys Riley-Richardson 3-0-6. TOTALS: 16-8-48.
3-point goals — Tanko 3, Jenkins 5, Harris 3. Rebounds — Cloverleaf 23 (Bailey 9), Streetsboro 22 (Reese 7). Assists — Cloverleaf 11 (Riley, Severson 4), Streetsboro 12 (Harris 4). Records — Cloverleaf (16-6, 10-4), Streetsboro (9-13, 8-6). Junior varsity — Streetsboro 72, Cloverleaf 53.