STOW: In a game that became a battle between two standout guards, senior Brandon Townsend and East came out on top 60-52 over Pepper Pike Orange in a Division II Stow sectional at Stow High School on Tuesday night.
Townsend led all scorers with 27 points and added seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal.
“He’s been there and done that,” East coach Ross Fiorello said. “He was a part of that group last year and he knows what it takes to win.”
Townsend was matched with Lions junior guard Spencer Williams for the majority of the game, and the two traded baskets a lot. Williams finished with 24 points, five rebounds and a block.
“All year long we go as he goes,” Orange coach Derrick Zeigler said. “He had to be aggressive and look to attack. He was able to get to the rim early and it was a great effort.”
Despite the victory, Fiorello was unhappy with his team’s performance, going so far as to call it lousy.
“I don’t think we were prepared to play,” Fiorello said. “We shot 8-of-20 from the free-throw line, lacked intensity and didn’t play defense. You name it, we’re unhappy with it.”
After East took a four-point lead in the second quarter, Williams scored nine consecutive points in the midst of an 11-2 run to give the Lions a 25-20 lead. He scored 13 of his 24 points in the first half, and the Lions led 27-26 at the break.
East struggled with its shot selection early, forcing too many outside jumpers and failing to get to the rim.
In the second half, supporting players Derik Lewis and Demetrius Ray began to step up and score around Townsend.
“We got a little more patient as the game went on,” Fiorello said. “We started pounding it inside more.”
Williams continued the scoring attack in the third quarter for Orange, scoring seven of the Lions’ first nine points halfway through the quarter. The Dragons then switched their defense to a 1-3-1 zone and began double-teaming him.
“They took away our ability to penetrate,” Zeigler said. “Early in the game [Williams] was getting to the rim at will. We were able to spread the floor so he could beat his man off the dribble and make a play. When they switched it slowed us down and threw us off guard a little bit.”
The switch kept Williams from scoring until there was 1:58 remaining in the fourth quarter, going more than eight minutes without a point as the Dragons built their lead.
“If we could have one or two other guys step up maybe the outcome is different,” Zeigler said. “There’s only so much one guy can do.”
The Dragons were able to score second-chance points on offensive rebounds often, led by the rebounding tandem of Ray (nine) and Townsend (seven).
“Thank God for Brandon Townsend tonight,” Fiorello said. “If he’s not there, we don’t beat anyone. It was the first tournament game, though. Kids are a little tight knowing it’s one and done. We have to get better or Saturday’s our last game.”
East will play Streetsboro at Stow High School at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.