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Orange’s offense lacked enough firepower to overcome an early deficit in a 63-56 loss to the Pioneers last Thursday evening at Garfield Heights.

Despite trailing by 19 points, the Orange Lions boys’ basketball team never stopped fighting, but they were their own worst enemy and lost 63-56 to the Elyria Pioneers last Thursday evening at the NEO Youth Elite Christmas Classic at at Garfield Heights High School.

“Obviously we’re disappointed with the result,” said Coach Michael Cruz. “We knew that Elyria’s a really good basketball team so we needed to play our best game of the year in order to win it. I felt we were just too sloppy with the basketball and had too many unforced turnovers and at times we let Elyria dictate the pace which allowed them to go on a couple of runs.”

Orange’s contest against the Pioneers came together quickly. After learning their game against Lake Catholic on Dec. 21 was postponed, Cruz sought to find a replacement game before the holidays.

According to Cruz, it was important for Orange (2-4, 1-2) to find a new opponent because he did not want his team to be idle for two weeks.

Less than 24 hours after calling the head of the Christmas Classic, the Lions landed a spot in the showcase.

The Pioneers got off to a fast start when junior guard Ryan Walsh knocked down a pair of triples in the opening minutes.

“It was real frustrating,” admitted the second-year coach. “We came in with a game plan and on the very first possession we had three guys playing one defense and two guys playing another so Elyria had a wide-open three to start the game. We tell these guys all the time Elyria has good shooters and talented players but when you give them a couple of wide-open looks you give them confidence.”

The Pioneers drained three triples in the first period and held a 15-9 advantage at the end of the quarter.

Orange turned things around in the second quarter and cut the lead to 21-17 with about two minutes left before the break. Cruz explained the Lions were doing a better job of taking care of the ball, getting down the floor, and boxing out Elyria rebounders.

Senior forward Trevor Moss ignited Orange’s offense by scoring eight points in the second period. He finished the game with a career-high 31 points and 11 rebounds.

“Trevor was outstanding,” Cruz said. “He’s a senior captain. That’s not a surprise for us. Trevor’s not a guy who may get us 31 every night but he’s been consistent. He plays hard and with a lot of energy. He’s a great teammate and kept us in the game offensively.”

Elyria dialed up the pressure in the final minutes by heating up from long-distance and knocked down three triples resulting in 11 unanswered points and a 38-23 lead at halftime.

“Those guys are so good and so potent offensively that after a couple of turnovers and a couple of second-chance opportunities we looked up and it went from a four-point game to now being 15 at half,” noted Cruz. “Obviously being down from four at half to being down 15 completely changed the second half.”

The Pioneers continued to have the momentum in the second half by slowing down Orange’s offense when they double-teamed Moss. With their leading scorer drawing more focus, the Lions needed another player to ignite the offense.

Help didn’t come soon enough as Elyria increased its lead to 49-30 near the end of the third quarter.

“We’re going to need some more consistency from some of our support guys in helping take some of the pressure off of Trevor because there’s no question that midway through the third quarter they were keying on Trevor,” Cruz noted. “That’s where somebody needed to step up and get a quick four or six so now they can’t focus on Trevor as much so things can open up and make the game easier for him.”

The 6-foot-3 forward still scored nine points in the third quarter after making a pair of three-pointers trimming Elyria’s lead to 49-36 entering the fourth quarter.

Orange made a couple of runs to cut the Pioneers’ lead to seven points several times in the fourth quarter but could not close the gap. Despite Moss pouring in 11 points in the final period, the Lions committed 22 turnovers during the game.

“Trevor definitely did everything he could offensively to keep us in the game but unfortunately we ended up with 22 turnovers,” Cruz said. “That’s 22 opportunities that we didn’t get to shoot. We have to do a much better job at taking care of the ball.”

Lions’ senior guard John Boyle and junior forward Dominic Anekwe were second in scoring, each tallying eight points. Walsh paced the Pioneers with 20 points followed by sophomore guard Mateo Medina who scored 16 points.

Orange will close out the year by traveling to Ashtabula for a road contest against Chagrin Valley Conference foe Edgewood on Dec. 30 for a 6:30 p.m. tip.

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