By Matt Lofgren
Garfield grabbed a 51-41 win Tuesday at Rootstown, despite watching the Rovers disintegrate a deficit that was 20 minutes with 1:30 remaining in the game.
It wasn't how Garfield's head coach Andy Olesky drew it up, but his G-Men finished the job they had started to earn a hard fought win.
Most noticeable by the players, senior guard Matt Pratt called the Rovers the "hardest working team" the team has played all season long.
"I'm glad to get a win, first and foremost because it is a bottom-line business with wins and losses," Olesky said. "We've had some hard-fought losses, so it was about time we got a win and it was ugly."
In the final minute and a half of the game, Garfield committed four "lazy" turnovers that Olesky said were inexcusable. Rootstown, on the other hand, was ready to go once the ball was in the hands of their playmakers.
"I have never been so frustrated after a win with our mistakes, especially in the fourth quarter," Olesky said. "Lazy turnovers, not going strong after the ball, bad passes, not finishing down low, not hitting free throws; those are the little things I've been harping on, the little things throughout the course of these last few weeks and tonight, we didn't do the little things."
While Garfield was struggling to correct mistakes, Rootstown was there to capitalize on Garfield's mishandled possessions.
"At the end of the second half, it was really enjoyable to coach for the rest of the game," Rootstown head coach Steve Beshara said. "Just because we had some things going, and we had guys working together."
The G-Men were led in scoring by Pratt with 21 points, including four 3-pointers, while running the team's offense for most of the game.
"We rebounded the ball and did everything a good team should be doing in the first half, at least," Pratt said. "Then in the second half we didn't really have it as much and in the fourth quarter we lost it, which I'm not happy about, but I'm sure next game we'll have it."
Pratt was essential in Olesky's eyes for the G-Men's big first half.
"Matt Pratt really carried us in the first half offensively," Olesky said. "He stepped up and made some huge shots for us."
Dominating in the first half, the G-Men came out of halftime with a 30-13 lead and all of the momentum. Garfield's convincing size difference really showed in the third quarter with forward Fred Maxey dominating on the boards.
Maxey was the lead man for the G-Men as they out-rebounded the Rovers 31-18 with Maxey collecting a dozen rebounds himself and adding eight points.
While Garfield did struggle in the later minuted of the game, the G-Men were very solid on defense in forcing 17 turnovers and only allowing Rootstown to take 11 shots in the first half.
"We're a strong defensive team and I take pride in our defense," Olesky said. "We work very hard in practice everyday on our D and we did force a lot of turnovers. That's a positive takeaway from the game, but unfortunately we didn't sustain that."