Boys Varsity Basketball · Boys Varsity Basketball beats Elyria 63 – 44

63 Strongsville High School
44 Elyria
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Sectional boys basketball: Improving Strongsville ends Elyria’s season
By: Tim Gebhardt, The Chronicle-Telegram

ELYRIA — There was no mystery about Saturday’s Division I sectional final at Elyria High.

When you start in a 10-0 hole, shoot 30 percent for the night and make only seven of 30 3-pointers, your chances at advancing are pretty slim.

That’s exactly what happened to the Pioneers as they were swamped 63-44 by an underrated Strongsville team. It’ll be the Mustangs in the district semifinals against Berea-Midpark on Thursday at Elyria Catholic and not the defending district champions.

Elyria, the third seed in the tournament, finished 10-13. No. 11 Strongsville advances with a misleading 6-18 record.

“Give Strongsville credit,” Elyria coach Brett Larrick said. “They’ve been on a roll. This was not going to be an easy game. It was a tough draw for us.”

Larrick could see it coming the last time Elyria and Strongsville played. The Pioneers pulled that one out on a late Deviian Williams 3-pointer. The Mustangs started to turn the corner and gave Elyria all it wanted just a couple weeks ago when freshman coach John Lipowski took over the coaching reins. Everyone, including Larrick, knew this game would be a challenge.

“They made good decisions,” Larrick said of the Mustangs. “They changed their zone from more of a match-up to a more traditional zone. They really spread out and we just never got in the seams or the gaps.”

The Mustangs have had more than their share of adversity this year. They started the year with a new coach but a 0-6 start quickly turned that relationship sour. Lipowski is starting to get the players to believe in themselves again. Strongsville’s talent level is much better than the record indicates.

“I’ve had these guys a long time,” Lipowski said. “Relationship was there. We just had to put it together on the floor. I had to get them to believe in each other. We’re reaping the benefits. We’re peaking at the right time.”

Strongsville jumped on top 10-0 Saturday and really never let Elyria establish anything offensively. Seniors Omari Peek, Shaun Csire, Bernie McGivern and Ali Awad played well on both ends of the floor as did junior Kevin Lawler. Peek led the way with 19 points and nine rebounds. Csire scored 16 and had eight rebounds. McGivern scored a dozen points and handled the ball against Elyria’s pressure.

On defense, the Mustangs packed in their zone and dared Elyria to beat them from outside and it simply couldn’t do it. The Pioneers missed their first 10 shots — seven coming from long distance — and never could make up the difference.

Elyria’s three leading scorers were held in check. Williams made just 1 of 10 shots from the field. Justin Koepp was just 2-of-9 and Roman Carter was 4-of-15. Carter finished with 12 points and freshman MarSaun Robinson had 11 to lead Elyria. Koepp had just four points and Williams two.

“We came out a little slow,” Koepp said. “Had a bad start and let them get up into a good lead. We never really fought as hard as we could to get back into it. We were still close at halftime but we just didn’t execute like we wanted.”

Strongsville will carry some newfound confidence and momentum into Thursday’s game with Berea-Midpark, the No. 2 seed.

“Honestly, it’s just about love and trust on our team,” McGivern said. “Our coach tried to provide a comfortable environment for everybody. Everyone trusts each other. There’s no more disputes.”

“Once the new coach came, we all got a new hope,” Peek said. “It was like a new hope coming. We all got our confidence back. We were ready to work again like it’s a brand new season.”

Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or

Strongsville 63, Elyria 44

STRONGSVILLE (63): Ali Awada 3-0-8, Omari Peek 8-0-19, Bernie McGivern 5-0-12, Kevin Lawler 3-0-6, Shaun Csire 7-2-16, Jalen Garner 0-0-0, Tim Ruch 0-0-0, Joe Lake 1-0-2, Drew Lipowski 0-0-0, Tre Massey 0-0-0, Jamar Benson 0-0-0, Ethan Williams 0-0-0, Marc Menoes 0-0-0. Totals 27-2-63.

ELYRIA (44): MarSaun Robinson 4-0-11, Deviian Williams 1-0-2, Roman Carter 4-0-12, William Waddell 0-0-0, Justin Koepp 2-0-4, Caleb Rogers 0-2-2, Phillip Byrd 3-3-9, Josiah Grantham 2-0-4, Scott Ethington 0-0-0, Aiden Carter 0-0-0, Tyren Lee 0-0-0. Totals 16-5-44.

Three-point goals: Strongsville 7-12 (Peek 3, Awada 2, McGivern 2), Elyria 7-30 (Carter 4, Robinson 3). Field goals: Strongsville 27-48 (56 percent), Elyria 16-54 (30 percent). Free throws: Strongsville 2-2 (100 percent), Elyria 5-7 (71 percent). Rebounds: Strongsville 32 (Peek 9), Elyria 27 (Koepp 9). Turnovers: Strongsville 10, Elyria 7. Fouls: Strongsville 8, Elyria 11.