North’s game plan for Friday’s Western Reserve Conference showdown with visiting Riverside was simple. The Rangers weren’t going to led Andrew Keller have another career night the way he did in scoring 55 points against Chardon last week.
That plan worked to perfection as the Rangers held Keller to just nine points in a 73-60 win.
“That was fun,” North coach Rob Koelling said. “The defensive plan was to put Brian Skolny on him and make sure we had help-side defense to not let him get into the paint. That was the best defensive performance of the year out of Skolny. He took away (Keller’s) baseline drives and our bigs pinched down. We forced someone else to step up and hit some shots. 55 wasn’t going to happen against us.”
Skolny also contributed on the offensive end with 11 points but it was his defensive effort that keyed the Rangers’ win.
“He probably doesn’t get enough credit for his defense,” Koelling said of Skolny. “He’s one of the top defenders in the ear and in the league and he really just contained Keller.”
With Skolny locking down Keller, the Rangers turned to Mikey Duleba on the offensive end.
Duleba scored a game-high 28 points with 21 coming in the second half as the Rangers pulled away from the Beavers.
“He was finishing drives and had great shot form,” Koelling said. “He had both parts of his game working, incised and outside.”
Evan Liddington added 13 points for the Rangers and Mo Morgan and Justin Fair both finished with seven.
“Justin Fair had a huge night,” Koelling said. “He only scored seven points but he had some key baskets and rebounds for us.”
The Rangers used a 49-34 lead after three quarters to create a special moment for senior Jimmy Arnold, who suffered a knee injury during the football season that also wiped out his final year of high school basketball.
Koelling hoped to slip Arnold into the game at some point and the Rangers made sure it happened.
“There were four or five minutes left in the game and Mikey and Brian came by the bench and said we’re getting Jimmy in the game,” Koelling said. “We had a nice 15 or 20-point margin with about a minute and a half left and they stuck to their word.”
Arnold entered the game and drew a foul, which sent him to the free throw line where he scored the only two points of his senior season.
“I want to thank all my teammates and my coaches,” Arnold said. “Without them and the way they played they wouldn’t have made my night so special. I was super excited to finally get back out there and play with my brothers one last time.”
Arnold was never more confident at the free throw line then he was at that moment in front of his home crowd.
“I know everyone in the gym wanted me to at least get one basket and I just focused and did my normal routine and sunk both of them,” he said. “Thank you to everyone for having my back the past four or five months through my injury. It means the world having a whole gymnasium cheering for you. Don’t sleep on North; we’re clicking right now.”
Rangers win on Senior Night, 73-60 over Riverside! pic.twitter.com/FJJwUm2n2B
— North Athletics (@northrangers) February 16, 2019
North 73, Riverside 60
Riverside: Wolf 13, Wojkowski 12, Spiesman 10, Keller 9, Stephens 5, Sign 3, Geiger 2, Watson 1
North: Duleba 28, Liddington 13, Skolny 11, Morgan 7, Fair 7, Broja 3, Proctor 2, Arnold 2
Riverside 12 11 11 26 — 60
North 16 9 24 24 — 73
Free throws: Riverside 13 of 18, North 17 of 24; 3-pointers: North 10 (Duleba 4, Liddington, Skolny, Morgan,Fair, Broja), Riverside 8 (Wolf 4, Spiesman, Stephens, Sigh); Rebounds: North 35 (Liddington 6), Riverside 21 (Spiesman 7); Assists: North 16 (Liddington 7), Riverside 12 (Geiger 3).