OAK PARK HEIGHTS — One of just two teams to defeat Roseville in SEC play a year ago, the Ponies were unable to slow down the defending league champions while falling to the Raiders 74-54 on Friday at Stillwater Area High School.
The third-ranked Raiders (5-0 SEC, 11-1) closed out the first half on an 18-5 run and outscored Stillwater 13-6 in the opening five minutes of the second half to turn a five-point deficit into a 46-31 lead.
“They’re a good team adn there’s a reason they’re ranked No. 3 in the state,” Stillwater coach Randy Jordan said. “We wanted to play to see where we’re at. We felt since last year we expected we should give them a good game and I expected us to go down to the wire, but it didn’t happen. We’ve got a lot of improving to do.”
With the exception of its nine free throws, Stillwater did not score a point from outside the paint until Sam Lagus hit a 3-pointer with 13 minutes remaining in the game. That game plan helped put the Raiders in foul trouble in the first half, but once the pace picked up Roseville was able to pull away behind its guard-oriented offense.
“That was our emphasis to start the game, we wanted to get the ball inside,” Jordan said. “We felt that we had size over these guys.”
The inside focus helped the Ponies jump out to a 20-15 lead while Roseville’s top post player Jordan Burich played less than three minutes in the first half after picking up his second foul. The Ponies continued their push in the post and Roseville reserve Derek Magnuson actually fouled out in the first half.
Senior guard Evan Kacmarynski helped spark Roseville’s resurgence while hitting three straight 3-pointers — including two that were banked in — during a two-minute stretch as the Raiders turned a five-point deficit into a 24-21 lead. Sophomore guard Kobe Critchley added to the lead while sinking a running 3-pointer from about 25 feet out as time expired to build a 33-25 halftime lead.
“I thought it was a good 13 or 14 minutes,” Jordan said. “After that, they played the same style the second half and it didn’t seem like we had an answer for it. We did not finish the first half or start the second half very well and that combined 10 minutes was the difference.”
Mack Johnson picked up the scoring pace while saving 18 of his game-high 22 points for the second half. His basket basket early in the second half to cap a 6-0 run built a 39-27 lead and Stillwater never pulled closer than 10 points the rest of the way. Logan Brown and Kacmarynski finished with 14 and 11 points for the Raiders, who are joined atop the conference standings by upstart East Ridge (5-0, 10-1).
“We had to keep the game close,” Jordan said. “Our biggest thing was we didn’t want to give up lay-ups and we didn’t want to give up three-point shots — and I thought the second half they pretty much dominated the boards on us. It was the rebounding that really hurt us in the second half.”
Matt Anderson scored 11 of his team-high 15 points in the first half and Andrew Duxbury added 14 points for the Ponies. Joel Malwitz played well off the bench for the Ponies while contributing eight points.
Roseville held a slight 32-29 rebounding edge for the game, but also took 10 more shots than the Ponies and committed just seven turnovers, compared to 13 for Stillwater.
“Their defense is better than I thought it was and they take care of the ball,” Jordan said. “It’s a team, they’re not 20 points better than we are, but right now they’re better than we are.”
Roseville 33 41 — 74
Stillwater 25 29 — 54
Roseville (pts): Mackenzie Johnson 22, Ben Farmer 2, Logan Brown 14, Evan Kacmarynski 11, Kobe Critchley 8, Jordan Burich 8, Derek Magnuson 4 and Lance Gardner 5.
Stillwater: Sam Lagus 3, Aaron Romportl 2, Andrew Duxbury 14, Nick Ogren 3, Tony Lennox 3, Joe Quinn 6, Matt Anderson 15 and Joel Malwitz 8.
3-pointers: Ros (9): Critchley 2, Evan Kacmarynski 3, Mack Johnson 2, Logan Brown and Lance Gardner; St (4): Lagus, Duxbury, Ogren and Lennox.
Free throws: Ros, 13-16; St, 10-16.
Fouls: Ros, 19; St, 16.
Fouled out: Ros, Magnuson; St, Lagus.