The Orange Lions boys basketball team would have loved to celebrate when senior guard Devin Belle tied the score at 46-46 in the fourth period last Friday evening.
Just two seconds after the Orange guard tied the score, he committed a technical foul for taunting.
Chagrin Valley Conference rival Geneva was given two free throws and an extra possession, scoring 4 points to go ahead 50-46.
“It was definitely deflating because it felt like we had a lot of momentum so to gift them four points in a tight game late in the fourth quarter was definitely something I think took some of the steam out of our engine,” Coach Michael Cruz said.
Orange continued making too many mistakes dropping a 62-54 decision for its 10th defeat in 12 games.
“It’s unfortunately been a common theme for us all season and last night’s theme was no different,” the third-year coach said. “It felt like we had a great chance to win the game but we just did not do the things that we needed to do down the stretch to win that game.”
A year removed from having an elite defense, the Lions (3-11, 2-7) have not met the same defensive standards they previously set.
According to Cruz, it has been a matter of trust.
“Last year we had five guys playing as one and this year we have five individuals at times out there,” he said. “Our defense was really predicated on help and too often when a guy gets beat, we do not have that help guy in position to stop the drive or when they kick it out we are late or not there on our rotations.”
Orange’s defensive struggles showed in the first period when the Eagles scored 15 points in the first three-and-a-half minutes.
The Lions recovered to hold Geneva scoreless for the remainder of the period and trimmed the lead to 15-12.
“We keep really preaching to our guys the importance of defense and how that can keep you in games so it was great to see but obviously I wish we would not have given up 15 points before we started competing a little harder on that side of the floor,” Cruz said.
The lack of trust has also extended onto the other side of the ball for Orange and Cruz admitted that too many players have tried playing isolation ball at times to ignite the offense rather than make the extra pass.
“Our guys have to understand that if you pass the ball then you are going to get it back and then just the realization that you can be aggressive and have an aggressive mentality and also being patient,” he said. “I think our guys are so desperate and so eager to make a play that they do not understand that if we move the ball a little bit more that our driving lane is going to be more open and that help side is not going to be there.”
Five different Geneva players scored in the second period, outscoring the Lions by 13-9, extending their lead to 28-21 at halftime.
Belle added 6 points in the second period but was just one of two Orange players to tascore in the period.
Orange started swinging the ball around in the third quarter and it was a night-and-day difference for the offense.
The Lions posted their highest scoring quarter of the game to ourscore Geneva 19-14, cutting the lead to 2 points at the end the third period.
Even with Orange sharing the ball, Belle led the comeback by recording 9 points in the third quarter.
“Devin is one of the leading scorers in the area and especially in the last few weeks, he has really starting to become efficient on the offensive end and certainly his ability to score helped keep us in the game,” said Cruz.
The Lions continued their surge and went on a 6-4 run to tie the game in the final quarter but their momentum evaporated when Belle was charged with a technical foul.
“That is what leadership is about,” Cruz said. “We try and tell our guys that you let your play do the talking and unfortunately in that moment, Devin let the emotions get the best of him.”
The technical foul also marked his fourth foul of the game and a few minutes later, the Lions’ senior guard fouled out.
“Our offense was definitely better with Devin on the floor than without him but I thought our guys still did a good job of continuing to compete,” Cruz said. “I do not think our guys looked lost without him but we all recognized we are better with him on the floor than with him on the bench.”
In addition to being without their leading scorer, the Lions gave Geneva too many second-chance opportunities.
“We probably have more size and athleticism than we did last year but this year we have had too many spurts where we are just trying to individually do it ourselves and we are not boxing out and that is definitely hurting us at times,” Cruz said.
Orange surrendered 13 offensive rebounds to the Eagles and also lost the free throw battle by making only four foul shots compared to Geneva’s 15, highlighted by the Eagles taking 15 foul shots in the fourth quarter.
Despite hitting only three field goals in the final period, the Eagles shot 11-of-15 from the free-throw line to earn the victory.
Following a home contest against conference foe Hawken on Tuesday evening, Orange will travel to Painesville and play CVC rival Harvey at 7 p.m. Friday then take on West Carrollton at 10 p.m. Sunday at Ro