Ross makes second-half statement ahead of tournament draw

Max Stepaniak is the Ross Rams leading scorer this season. The Rams last week clinched the SWOC title. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Max Stepaniak is the Ross Rams leading scorer this season. The Rams last week clinched the SWOC title. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Rams improve to 17-2 with 58-36 win over Harrison

If the Ross Rams felt like they still needed to make a statement going into Sunday’s Division II tournament draw meeting, they did so during the second half of their game on Friday against Harrison.

After committing eight turnovers in the first half against a Wildcats team Ross had beaten by 35 back on Jan. 12, Ross turned the ball over just three times while blitzing Harrison with a 34-12 second half on the way to a 58-36 Southwest Ohio Conference win.

“We played like we know how to play,” said Ross 6-foot-8 senior power forward Max Stepaniak, who sank three 3-pointers on his way to finishing with a game-high 23 points.

The Rams (17-2, 9-0) went into the game ranked seventh in the Associated Press Division II statewide poll and already had clinched their first conference or league championship since 1994, but they still felt unwilling to be overlooked going into Sunday’s tournament draw.

“We’ve played 19 games, which is almost unheard of with the coronavirus,” coach David Lane said. “We’ve done a good job of trying to fill up the schedule, but our message has been you can’t become complacent.

“They love each other. They share the ball. They trust each other.”

Woodward of the Cincinnati Metro Athletic Conference, Indian Hill and Wyoming of the Cincinnati Hills League, Roger Bacon and Bishop Fenwick of the Greater Catholic League Co-ed Division, Monroe out of the Southwestern Buckeye League and Batavia of the Southern Buckeye Athletic-Academic Conference represented Ross’ top competition for high seeds in Sunday’s draw going into Friday’s games.

The Rams made a definitive statement by opening the second half with a 14-2 run to take control of the game. Stepaniak scored the first four points and senior guard Sam Nunn followed up with a 3-pointer from the top of the key and a layup to help Ross take control.

“This was our last chance to make a good impression,” Lane said. “The second half showed who we are.”

“I feel like we’re not too confident,” said Stepaniak, who went into the game averaging 15.6 points per game and scored 15 points in the first half to help Ross stay in the game. “I don’t think we took them lightly.”

The Rams, who’ve won five straight games, hope to gather further momentum over their final three games of the season, a run that is scheduled to start Saturday with a non-conference game at Hamilton and continue on Tuesday with a non-conference game at Monroe before meeting neighboring-rival Talawanda at Ross next Friday.

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