Red?Riders lose to Buckeye Local, 59-33

WEIRTON – Buckeye Local boys basketball coach Jay Morris celebrated his 50th birthday in a big way Saturday night as his Panthers stepped up the intensity in the second and third periods and rolled to a 59-33 win over homestanding Weir High.

Morris, a 1981 Weir High graduate, celebrated his birthday and return to his alma mater with a group of people he played basketball with back in the 1979-81 era.

This pattern was similar to the first nine games for the winless Red Riders. Although showing signs of improvement, coach Mike Granato’s crew is having a hard time making timely baskets.

They led 12-10 after the first period, but scored just 21 points the remainder of the game.

“I think we played the best 12 minutes of basketball all season in the first quarter and a half tonight,” said Granato. “Then we got into the same scenario we’ve had every game this year. We went through a streak where we missed a bunch of shots and when we missed shots we began to get frustrated.”

Leading 18-16 with 3:21 left before the half, the Panthers (6-6) went on a 10-1 run to go into the locker room with a comfortable 28-17 lead.

“This was a big game for us because it got our record to even for the year,” said Morris. “I had people come in from Canton, Columbus and Pittsburgh. We all played basketball here together and we hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years. It was a nice evening and this brought our record to 6-6.

“Buckeye Local hasn’t had a winning season since 2003 so we really want to try to push to get that winning season. I really liked the way we played after we got things rolling. I tell the kids that when we’re not shooting well, we have to pick it up on the defensive end, and they did that. I tell them you shoot the ball better from the outside once you play better D.”

When Weir High’s 6-foot-5 junior, Andre Sims pulled in a rebound and dribbled coast-to-coast for a layup to end the first quarter scoring. Sims scored seven points in the first quarter, but didn’t ring the bell again until he made a foul shot in the fourth quarter. By that time, the Panthers were ahead 54-27.

“He (Sims) got into some foul trouble there in the second half and that limited him some both offensively and defensively,” said Granato. “He wasn’t as aggressive after he got his third foul.”

Buckeye Local’s John Rozenek, who finished with a double-double, led the Panthers, especially in the first half scoring 14 points as the Red Riders had difficulty keeping the 6-3 senior out of the paint. Rozenek led all rebounders with 10.

The Panthers held a wide advantage in the rebounding department pulling in 41 to Weir High’s 24, and they made 24 of 63 shots compared to 12 of 61 for the Riders.

Granato said his use of a triangle and two defense was a key to his Riders hanging in the game during the early going, but he knew that when Morris inserted Tommy Hamilton, who is 6-foot-6, into the game his team would be in trouble.

Hamilton came off the bench to score eight points and pull down nine rebounds.

“We had an overtime game here with Weir High last year and with Mike Granato being the coach he is, we knew we’d have a hard time,” said Morris. “He came out with that triangle and two, it took us a little while to get that sorted out. We really didn’t until we started to play good defense. We’ve been playing good defense since the Christmas break.”

Rozenek finished with 14 points to lead all scorers. He got help from senior classmate, Kyle Michalo, who scored 11 including two three-pointers, and junior Brennan Czuchran followed with 10 points.

Senior Josh Groves was the only Red Rider in double figures. He scored 10 points and was followed by Sims’ eight.

Weir High has a couple of rivalry games coming up next week. They travel to Oak Glen Tuesday and return home to host crosstown rival, Madonna, on Friday.

Meanwhile, Buckeye Local, returns to the hardwood Wednesday hosting Union Local.

The Panthers came into the game fresh off a 55-53 victory at Bellaire as Hamilton led the way with 13 points, nine rebounds and six blocks.

“The coaches always tell me that when I go in they want me to try to block as many shots as I can,” Hamilton said after Friday’s win. “I really like to block shots. Every time I block a shot, that’s two points that the opponent doesn’t get and hopefully it gives us a chance to get two.

“I felt pretty good out there. I didn’t play a lot of varsity last year, so this is very different for me this year. I’m starting to play more and I feel comfortable out there.”

Michalo led the Buckeye scorers with 15 points while Czuchran added 14. Rozenek closed with 10 rebounds.