By Matt Lofgren | Correspondent
Ravenna capitalized on Crestwood's 18 turnovers Tuesday night at Crestwood to earn a hard-fought 69-59 road win.
Less than a month ago when Crestwood and Ravenna met for the first time, the Ravens pummeled the Red Devils in a 30-point victory. Tuesday night's affair was a much different story against an improved Crestwood squad, despite the Red Devils missing their center.
"They've gotten a lot better since the last time we played them, especially without their big man," Ravenna coach Phil Starks said. "They played hard. My hat's off to (Crestwood coach) Al (Mielcarek). He's done a great job with what he's got. We're more of an athletic team and tonight I think we took a step forward team-wise and sharing the ball."
Crestwood coach Mielcarek said he was proud of the turnaround his team has been able to accomplish through playing more team basketball and finding leadership out of his seniors.
"We showed a lot of heart tonight and a lot of pride," Mielcarek said. "I'm really proud of my three seniors. I thought they came together well to work hard out there and carry us. Not having Trevor (Sweet), our starting center for the last three years, it hurts."
With Sweet out for the game, Ravenna's Jermaine Justice went wild in the paint. Finishing the night with 24 points, Justice was the difference for the Ravens.
"We watched the Streetsboro film and he was way above the rim. He played above the rim that game," Starks said of Justice. "I think sometimes these kids need to see their mistakes and visualize what they're doing wrong and I think that's a huge help. He's starting to understand that he's going to get the majority of his points in the paint."
Justice silenced the attempt by Crestwood (6-10, 2-8 PTC Metro) to storm back into the game after the half and down 16. Justice scored 12 points, all in the paint, in the third compared to Crestwood's 17 points as a team.
Again the Red Devils made a push to bring the game closer by closing a gap of 20 points with 6:30 left in the game to within 10 with 1:35 left to play.
"These kids, I think they realize the end of the line is coming for them, these seniors," Mielcarek said. "I was really proud of them how they stepped up out there tonight. I thought they did very well not quitting, and we teach these guys that in the middle of the game, it's just as important as the end of the game and I think the middle of the game is where we lost this game."
On the other end of the court, Starks was preaching to his Ravens (9-7, 5-5) to finish strong and not let a win slip through their fingers.
"They knew I was a little upset, and with the lead you want to hold the ball and pull them out of their zone, which we did," Starks said. "Sometimes telling teenage kids to hold the ball unless you've got a layup is redundant."