ROSS TWP. — Ross High School boys basketball coach David Lane has pointed to this moment.
Courtesy of a big second half Friday night, his Rams earned a chance at taking control in the Southwest Ohio Conference title chase and possibly much more.
The Rams rode the momentum of a standing-room-only Hall of Fame Night home crowd in a 45-33 win over Harrison, gaining sole possession of second place in the SWOC while gearing up for a rematch with league leader Mount Healthy Tuesday at home.
FRIDAY NIGHT BASKETBALL COVERAGE
“The kids understand they are in a good position to control their own destiny, but what we can’t do is overlook teams,” Lane said. “It is a one-game type position at this point. We have to win each one and not look ahead as each game in the SWOC is a battle.
“The kids understand they have a special opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done in a long time here at Ross, and that is hang a championship banner in that gym. We earned a shot and have Mount Healthy at home Tuesday. We just need to take advantage of it. “
Ross legends took over halftime with the announcements of 11 former Rams being inducted into the Ross Athletic Hall of Fame.
Cole Gronas led the Rams with 13 points and sophomore big man Max Stepaniak added 11 points and seven boards as Ross improved to 10-4 overall and 5-2 in the SWOC.
Stepaniak said the Rams will be ready for Tuesday after leading a strong second half against Harrison (5-7, 4-3).
“Yes sir, I felt we took care of business,” said Stepaniak, who acknowledged the Rams talked about this big two-game conference swing. “We just got after it in the second half. Coach told us we need to win each half, and after winning the first half, we knew we only had to tie in the second half to win. Mount Healthy has to come here. It will be a tough one.”
The Rams didn’t look great on offense, but Lane said that doesn’t matter as long as Ross continues to play lockdown defense. The hosts shot 14-of-30 from the field and committed 16 turnovers, but hit 12-of-19 at the charity stripe.
“We did a good job pressuring the ball and kept them out of the paint,” Lane said. “We feel if we can get a six-, eight-point lead in the third quarter, our defense can take over. We won the game on the defensive end.”
Harrison fought back from an early 10-5 deficit, trailing only 18-17 at half. Ross blitzed the Wildcats in the third quarter, outscoring the visitors 15-4 to grab a commanding 33-21 lead.
Stepaniak opened the second half with a 3 and a layup — and Cooper Shields had all five of his points — as the Rams dominated the third quarter, forcing eight Harrison turnovers.
“I told the guys at halftime we didn’t play that great and we were still up one,” Lane said. “We talk about coming out strong at the beginning of the first and third quarters, and I thought we did a great job taking control after half.”
Harrison only put four players in the scoring column, led by Spencer Kinnett’s game-high 15 points. The 6-foot-3 senior came in averaging 16 points a game but only hit two shots, getting most of his points on an 11-of-16 effort at the free-throw line.
The Wildcats turned the ball over 19 times and hit 9-of-29 from the field. Cody Geers had five points and five rebounds for Ross.
Harrison travels to East Central (Ind.) on Saturday night.
HARRISON (5-7, 4-3 SWOC): Cole Combs 1 0 3; Sam Heimkreiter 3 0 8; Spencer Kinnett 2 11 15; Connor Kinnett 3 1 7. Totals: 9-12-33
ROSS (10-4, 5-2 SWOC): Dylan Zimmerman 2 0 5; Ben Yeager 1 0 2; Cooper Shields 1 3 5; Jordan Hodge 1 2 4; Cole Gronas 4 2 13; Max Stepaniak 5 0 11; Cody Geers 0 5 5. Totals: 14-12-45
3-pointers: H 3 (Heimkreiter 2, Combs), R 5 (Gronas 3, Zimmerman, Stepaniak)