THOMAS FETCENKO / CHRONICLE Lorain High School's Deonte Benejan (5) takes a shot while Cleveland Heights High School's Jaelyn Withers (24) guards him on Friday night, February 8.
Thomas R Fetcenko 2014 440-864-5 Enlarge
LORAIN — Check one goal off Lorain’s long list this season.
The Titans had to shake off a slow start against Cleveland Heights, but ultimately took back the Lake Erie League championship from their rival with a 75-66 win Friday night. The league title is Lorain’s fourth in five seasons.
For most teams, an outright conference title would be cause for a lengthy postgame celebration. But the Titans, coming off a trip to the Division I state semifinals last season, have their eyes on a bigger prize.
“We asked if they wanted to cut the nets down and they wanted no part of it,” Lorain coach John Rositano said.
“They want the big net. But it’s good to win a conference championship. You get a number on the banner, it stays there the rest of their lives and they see it. But they’ve got a bigger prize they’re looking for. This is just one step we’re taking to get to that goal.”
Lorain (17-1, 10-0 LEL) started about as slowly as possible, watching Cleveland Heights shoot the lights out of the gym in building a 27-14 lead on the strength of a 14-3 run.
If it weren’t for Devon Grant and his nine points, all from 3-point range, the deficit would have been a lot worse.
Grant finished the half with 21 points. He had six 3-pointers on the night, two of which came in the early minutes of the second quarter on back-to-back possessions. On the second, he managed to draw a foul and convert the four-point play, cutting the deficit to 29-23.
The Titans’ defense tightened in the second, forcing eight turnovers and holding the Tigers (9-8, 6-4) to eight points.
“They were making all of their shots and we weren’t hitting most of ours,” Grant said. “But our confidence is very high.”
Grant took a backseat in the second half, scoring just five points to finish with 26. That’s largely because teammate Taevon Pierre-Louis took center stage. The senior forward scored six in the first half, but finished with 32 points for the third straight game.
He was aggressive right out of the gate in the third, with six points in the first two minutes to help Lorain take the lead for good at 43-37. Pierre-Louis finished with 12 in the third and 14 in the fourth, including a dunk that ignited the crowd and put Lorain up 70-62 with 1:23 left, effectively sealing the championship.
“In the second half we did better,” Pierre-Louis said. “We took better shots, we moved the ball more and that got their defense on their toes more. It allowed us to get open looks. It was an effort thing. We had to give more effort, play smarter and better contest their shots.”
Pierre-Louis, Grant and junior Jordan Jackson were the only Titans to score a field goal. Jackson finished with 13 points, while the rest of the team combined for four free throws.
Nigel Martin led the Tigers with 24 points while Louisville commit Jae’lyn Withers was held to just eight points — though he grabbed 12 rebounds — thanks largely to strong defense by Pierre-Louis and foul trouble. He fouled out with 3:02 left in the game.
Contact Chris Sweeney at 329-7135 or email@example.com and follow him @CSweeneyCT on Twitter.
Lorain 75, Cleveland Heights 66
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS (66): Greg Pitts 3-0-6, Nigel Martin 6-8-24, Jae’lyn Withers 2-2-8, Christian Dillard 4-1-9, Manny Hill 6-4-17, Anthony Johnson 1-0-2, Robert Morgan 0-0-0, Harris Kern 0-0-0. Totals 22-15-66.
LORAIN (75): Jordan Jackson 6-0-13, Deonte Benejan 0-1-1, Taevon Pierre-Louis 12-8-32, Devon Grant 7-6-26, Kam Davis 0-1-1, Aaron Whitehead 0-2-2, Aiden Brown 0-0-0. Totals 25-18-75.
Cleveland Heights 27 8 12 19 — 66
Lorain 14 20 21 20 — 75
Three-point goals: Cleveland Heights 7-22 (Martin 4, Withers 2, Hill), Lorain 7-23 (Grant 6, Jackson). Field goals: Cleveland Heights 22-42 (52 percent), Lorain 25-61 (41 percent). Free throws: Cleveland Heights 15-19 (79 percent), Lorain 18-28 (64 percent). Rebounds: Cleveland Heights 24 (Withers 12), Lorain 28 (Pierre-Louis 9). Total fouls: Cleveland Heights 24, Lorain 17. Fouled out: Johnson, Withers. Turnovers: Cleveland Heights 17, Lorain 8.
Junior varsity: Cleveland Heights, 54-53 (OT)