It could be said that a three-minute spurt decided a 32-minute basketball game on Wednesday.
Deadlocked at 20 coming out of halftime, the Cleveland Rams took advantage of a brief West Johnston lull and struck for a quick 10-0 run that led to a 44-37 nonconference road victory.
Four different Rams scored during the spurt, including back-to-back three-pointers by Donovan Wright and Chase Jackson after a midcourt turnover, and the Wildcats were never able to close the gap.
“I just told them we need to come out and start the second half with a lot of energy and be aggressive and try to press a little bit,” said Cleveland coach John Jacobs. “Sometimes we’re successful with it, and sometimes we’re not, but tonight it kind of gave us the little spark that we needed.”
“We didn’t come out very aggressive out of halftime,” West Johnston coach Kris Bennett said. “I thought we did a good job playing them even in the first half but obviously didn’t play well to start the second half.”
The Wildcats whittled the lead to 38-34 with under two minutes left, but buckets by Bobby Stenborg and Wanyae Hatfield put the game out of reach.
What didn’t work: Jackson, Cleveland’s starting point guard, picked up a pair of early fouls and sat out for most of the first half. The dynamic of the Ram offense changed without the sharpshooter in the game, and West Johnston was able to capitalize.
“I probably could’ve played him with three fouls but I’ve got a couple other guards that I have some confidence in, so I let him sit out,” Jacobs said. “We have other things we can do to get it done without him in there.”
“Chase is an excellent shooter, so you always have to know where he’s at,” Bennett said. “He’s a very good spot-up three-point shooter, and we left him alone there in the second half. That’s really what you look for with Chase; you have to get a hand up because he’s an excellent shooter.”
Jackson scored all seven of his points in the second half.
Putting up numbers: Cleveland junior forward Bobby Stenborg is off to a hot start to the season. Stenborg led all scorers with 16 points and is averaging 17.4 points per game for the 4-4 Rams.
History shows: Wednesday marked the fourth consecutive time that neither team has reached 50 points in the rivalry game.
“Every time we get together, both teams play hard, and both teams play some good stretches of defense, and it seems like for the most part the referees let us play,” Jacobs said.
“Both our teams really like to run, but I think nerves get the best of them,” Bennett Said. “This is the least amount of points we’ve scored all year long. It’s a little bit of a physical game because of the rivalries, and both teams know each other fairly well.
Going forward: Bennett is still searching for someone to emerge as a go-to scorer. Ryne Turner (10.5) is the only Wildcat to average in double figures. Cameron Williams stood out with 14 points Wednesday.
“We’ve got to get a couple guys we can rely on for guaranteed points,” Bennett said. “It’s always nice when a new guy steps up, but it’d be nice to have a little more consistency.”