FREMONT – Regardless of one’s belief in the existence of moral victories, there was plenty to like and be impressed by in the Fremont Ross boys basketball team’s performance Friday night.
Despite being short-handed by a pair of starters and trailing by 15 points in the fourth quarter, the Little Giants gave the Fighting Irish of Toledo Central Catholic a scare. Ross battled back and climbed to within four points with 90 seconds to play, but the Little Giants could not complete the comeback, falling to Central Catholic 58-51.
“I was very proud of their effort and their energy and their competitiveness,” Ross coach Mark Gedeon said. “Our kids kept battling back and tried to find a way back in the game, through movement, through playing hard, running the floor and hitting some big shots.”
Ross played without starters Grant McConnell, who recently had his tonsils removed, and junior Steven Blodgett (strep throat) while point guard James Wright sat on the bench for long stretches Friday in foul trouble.
“It didn’t matter who was the floor there either, that’s something we always stress in our team and our program, as long as it says Fremont on the front of that jersey, we’re going to compete,” Gedeon said.
But just a minute into the third quarter, however, Gedeon did not like what he saw from his team. After opening the second half with a pair of turnovers and a poor play on the defensive end of the floor, Gedeon called timeout just 61 seconds into the period and his team trailing by 14 points.
“The message was ‘Let’s focus on what we can do.’ We had to get focused,” Gedeon said. “We had a poor out-of-bounds defense there where they slipped the screen and got a layup and we didn’t rotate like we practiced. We had two turnovers on the offensive end and we didn’t want that lead to get any bigger than it was.”
Ross heeded its coach’s words and tightened up its defense, improved its half-court offense and turned the ball over only four times the rest of the game. The Little Giants cut the deficit to 10 points by the end of the third and opened the fourth by narrowing the gap to seven.
The Irish however, answered quickly, scoring eight unanswered points in just over a minute to take a 51-36 lead with just over five minutes remaining.
With four fouls, Wright checked back into the game and gave the Little Giants a spark. He assisted a wide-open layup in the post by Tavarius Simms. Moments later, Brody Chudzinski hit a 3-pointer, followed by back-to-back 3-pointers from Wright, sending the Ross crowd into a frenzy and bringing the Little Giants within six points.
“You try to channel it a little bit but I was trying to use that energy to our advantage,” Gedeon said. “For our players, when they’re that excited and they’re smiling and their whooping it up with each other and supporting each other, that’s fun. That’s who we are and we need to be in that state of mind as much as we can.”
Another Simms basket in the post brought Ross within four, 55-51 with 1:30 to play, but the Irish made 3-of-5 free throws down the stretch and the Little Giants came no closer.
“(Ross) made some big shots and it wasn’t one guy, it was multiple guys,” Central Catholic coach Nick Lowe said. “We just wanted to have composure. We were still in the drivers’ seat and the worst thing you can do is panic. We wanted to gain our composure a little bit and finish out the game.”
Wright led Ross with 12 points while Simms added 10 and Chris Liggins added nine as the Little Giants’ record fell to 1-5 overall, 0-3 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.
“It’s always been my goal to try to get our kids to play to the bets of their ability, sometimes the scoreboard doesn’t matter a lot,” Gedeon said. “What’s nice is I had kids in that locker room upset because they knew we’re three possessions away from a major upset.
“Call it moral victories or whatever you want but there are a lot of positives we can take from this game.”