PEPPER PIKE—Of the 25 points Jake Reid scored in Perry’s 52-50 win at Orange on Tuesday, it’s the final basket that will always be remembered as the shot that helped the Pirates earn at least a share of the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division championship.
Matt Cool’s free throw attempt was a bit long but Reid pulled down the rebound just a few feet inside the charity stripe and lofted a floater just above the outstretched hands of three Orange defenders as the buzzer sounded.
“They’re a veteran group of guys that play multiple sports and have been in similar situations before so I think that helped a lot,” Perry coach Al Iacofana said of the Pirates and their execution in the closing minutes. “We tried to talk a lot the last 24-48 hours and throughout the game, this was going to be really, really hard. Winning a conference championship on the road against a really good basketball team is not easy. You’re going to have to grind every possession and give yourself a chance at the end and obviously, we were able to do that.”
The win closed out an impressive run that saw the Pirates win seven straight and 10 of their last 11 league games.
Perry improved to 16-5 overall and finished league play with an 11-3 mark. That’s quite an improvement from the squad that won just three games two years ago.
“I’m proud of them,” Iacofano said. “Jake, he was a starter as a sophomore and he won three games. Matt, Drew (Schiano), Nate (Cubbison), those guys were getting a little bit of varsity time as sophomores during a three-win season. To see that growth and development from the last two years to a conference championship, and then starting off with two losses in three games, to be able to get it done after that type of start is pretty impressive by those guys.”
Beating Orange for the second time this season wasn’t easy.
The Pirates led just 23-21 at halftime and entered the fourth quarter up 43-38.
“We couldn’t execute a lot of our game plan and that’s a credit to Orange,” Iacofano said. “They were physical and did a great job on our shooters. They were crashing the boards; they were pressuring us and switching things up defensively. I’d like to say our game plan was a thing of beauty but that wasn’t the case because of what Orange did tonight.”
Orange tied the game at 50-50 but Cool had a chance to give the Pirates the lead by hitting his free throws in the final seconds.
Instead, Cool’s miss set up Reid’s heroic finish.
“It was all about defense, being able to get stops down the stretch, which I thought we did,” Orange coach Ashen Ward said. “We had some really great defensive possessions and gave ourselves a chance to win. It just came down to a last shot.”
Schiano contributed to the win with 11 points while Cool and Cubbison finished nine and seven, respectively.
Nick Walters led Orange with 21 points and also was a thorn in the side of Perry’s shooters.
“Nick is a huge key for our team,” Ward said. “When he’s got that energy in his defensive pressure, he creates a lot for everybody. It’s hard for teams to focus on anybody else when he’s getting off the way he did tonight. That’s a tribute to his teammates. They all encourage him and tell him to keep going and keep pushing. He’s having a fantastic season and we hope we can keep it going.”
Perry closes out the regular season at home on Friday against Madison while Orange hosts St. Martin de Porres then plays at Cornerstone Christian on Saturday.