OREGON – By looking at the scoreboard alone at halftime Friday night, it might appear as though the Fremont Ross boys basketball team was afflicted with the same malaise that led to a lopsided loss to Toledo Whitmer just three nights earlier.
And while the Little Giants trailed Oregon Clay by a bucket after two quarters, it wasn’t because of lack of hustle, discipline or execution. Ross’ first-half field goal shooting was simply colder than the arctic temperatures outside the gymnasium.
Finally, however, the Little Giants warmed up in the third quarter, continued to create offensive chances thanks to an opportunistic defense, and did an outstanding job moving the ball in the halfcourt en route to a 45-35 victory.
“Against Whitmer we had just two total assists for the game and tonight it was much better,” Ross coach Mark Gedeon said. “Our recognition was much better and that third quarter, getting our shooters good shots to knock down, certainly makes the game, for us, a lot easier.”
The win not only removes the bitter taste left in the Little Giants’ mouth from Tuesday’s 33-point loss to the Panthers, it also gives Ross (2-6 overall) its first win in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference (1-4).
“We said we weren’t going to dwell on it, we were going to move past it,” said Ross senior Grant McConnell of Tuesday’s loss. “We struggled today in the first half, but we kept together, decided what we were going to do and we did it and won. It feels good.”
From the last two minutes of the first quarter to the end of the second quarter, Ross’ defense forced 15 Clay turnovers. The Little Giants, however, could not buy a bucket as open shots from the perimeter and layins from the paint refused to fall through the basket. While the Eagles took a 19-17 lead into halftime, the Little Giants did not let their low field goal percentage get them frustrated.
“It was really hard not to get frustrated, but I believe in them and they believe in me,” junior Brody Chudzinski said. “We just went out and executed what coach told us to do and we came out with the W.”
The third quarter saw Ross warm up and find its shooting touch, none more than Chudzinski.
McConnell and Jarren Hampton hit 3-pointers a minute apart to give Ross the lead. Chudzinski then hit three 3-pointers in a two-minute span, to send the Little Giants to a 37-28 lead entering the fourth quarter.
“It was just a matter of our kids being confident in themselves and in each other and knocking down some shots,” Gedeon said.
With a double-digit lead, Ross proceeded to milk the clock in the fourth quarter. Possessing the ball for long stretches of time in the final period, Ross rotated the ball, continued to find the open man and kept the clock running. Ross rarely attempted a shot, and it didn’t have to, as Clay (0-10, 0-5) struggled the gain possession and never again climbed back within single digits.
Chudzinski scored all nine of points during his late third-quarter outburst. McConnell, who was Ross’ only source of offense when the Little Giants struggled early, had a stellar night on both ends of the floor and finished with a game-high 17 points and tied for the team lead with five rebounds.
“I thought he was outstanding in multiple ways,” Gedeon said of McConnell. “Whether it was defensively, hitting some shots from the outside or taking things to the hole. Most importantly was his leadership. It’s nice when you have a player on the floor, a battle-tested senior, who has the ability to keep his teammates up.”