Gavin Hoying puts on a dunk fest for Russia against Irish.
SPRINGFIELD — Russia was worried about a possible letdown entering a nonconference game at Catholic Central on Saturday night. The Raiders beat Jackson Center in a key Shelby County League game on Friday and had a long bus trip down to take on the Irish.
The Russia fans in attendance were far from let down at Jason Collier Gymnasium. The Raiders ran away from Central in the second half to a 63-37 win. The game wasn’t without a few scares, though. Central pulled to within three points midway through the second and eight points early in the third.
“That was a big win for us last night, and we’re glad we were able to get another win tonight,” Russia head coach Paul Bremigan said after the game. “We had to correct some problems at halftime because we started slow, but I don’t think we had any kind of letdown tonight. We just didn’t make some shots early and let them get into the lane on us in the first half. We made some adjustments and held them pretty much in check in the second half.”
Thomas Kavanaugh hit a three for Central to cut Russia’s lead to three points early in the second. That was as close as the Irish came. Russia finished the second on a 15-7 run, including two dunks from Gavin Hoying, to take a 30-20 lead at halftime. Hoying scored 19 points in the first half.
Central pulled within eight points on three from Zack Young early in the third, but the Raiders finished the third on a 15-3 run and led 50-29 at the end of the third quarter.
Irish head coach Dan Shay was proud of the way Central played against Russia, who’s ranked tenth in Div. IV in the current state AP poll.
“They have great pressure,” Shay said. “They kind of took us out of our offense a couple of times by making us speed up a lot. We had some mental break downs and mental mistakes again.
“But overall, I’m very proud of the way my team competed against a team like that. They’re big, they’re strong, they’re athletic, but we never stopped competing. We kept competing to the very end at that last buzzer.”
Gavin Hoying led Russia with 25 points and seven rebounds. Nolan Francis and Jordan Gariety added 11 points each for the Raiders.
Hoying put on a dunk fest in the game. He had four dunks in the first half, including two thunderous breakaways.
“Gavin can go on spurts like that,” Bremigan said. “He’s a load inside. He’s tough to handle. Our guards got the ball to him in good spots. In the second half when they were paying a lot of attention to him, our guards got some shots because of it.”
Shay said Hoying is the most athletic player Central’s seen this season.
“We knew he was pretty good,” Shay said. “He got a couple of breakaways that we kind of looked at it as a highlight for him. The thing is though, we didn’t stop competing after that. Sometimes when people don’t see dunks that much, you hang your head. It can be a shock. But it wasn’t a shock to us. We kept going.”
Quinnton Howard led Central with nine points, while Thomas Kavanaugh added eight.
Russia returns to action next Friday at Botkins. The Raiders (15-3) also have games left against Fairlawn and Marion Local before tournament action starts.
Russia’s win over Jackson Center puts the Raiders on top of the SCAL standings. It will also likely earn the Raiders the top seed in the Piqua Div. IV sectional. The tournament draw for all southwest Ohio teams is next Sunday.
The Raiders hope to make another long tournament run this season. They advanced to the regional semifinals last year.
“I think we’re getting better,” Bremigan said. “It’s been a long year. We’ve had our peaks and our valleys. But I think we’re getting better and have been able to do some different things defensively. I think that’s helped us out quite a bit and will continue to.”
The game was the first of a series of tough nonconference games for the Irish. Central travels to Yellow Springs (14-4) on Tuesday, hosts Shawnee (12-5) on Feb. 17, and travels to St. Charles Prep (11-2) on Feb. 21. Shay hopes the slate of games will help prepare Central for the tournament.
“I told the kids that, ‘you’re playing for the next season right now,’ ” Shay said. “As long as we can improve and get to the next season, we can turn some heads… I’m pleased with our progress at times. We’re still very young at a lot of different aspects of the game. But as long as they’re learning and not making the same mistakes over and over again, I’m excited about that.”
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