Firestone strengthened its grasp on the No. 1 spot in the City Series boys basketball standings Friday night with senior Kylan Richburg delivering a career-best performance.
Richburg scored a career-high 29 points to lead the host Falcons to a 90-73 victory over the Ellet Orangemen in a matchup of two of the fastest teams in Akron.
Richburg scored consistently throughout the game to lead Firestone (12-5, 9-1). Kenmore (10-5, 8-3), Buchtel (8-8, 7-3) and Ellet (10-6, 6-4) are close behind.
“I feel good about these points and I am happy we got the win,” Richburg said. “We passed the ball around well and defensive rebounds were important. Coach told us to rebound and we did that very well in addition to playing good defense.”
Kenmore topped visiting Buchtel 76-74 in overtime in Friday’s other key City Series game. Firestone will visit Buchtel on Tuesday and then host Kenmore on Friday.
“We have to keep working hard in practice and try our best to get the championship,” said Richburg, who also grabbed eight rebounds.
Firestone jumped out to a 19-8 lead after one quarter. Richburg scored eight points in the quarter, which featured a monster two-hand dunk by Falcons senior Raybon Lewis following a pass from senior Isreal Spear.
Richburg swished a 3-pointer with 3:55 to go in the second quarter to give Firestone a 33-12 edge. The Falcons’ lead was 39-22 at halftime, 58-37 with 2:57 left in the third after a Richburg layup and free throw, and was 65-51 entering the fourth quarter.
Juniors A.J. Gareri and Jaret Jones each buried two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as Ellet trimmed its deficit to 73-65, but Firestone extended its lead on the play of its starting five — Richburg, Lewis, Spear, senior Jaylin Moore and junior Tre’Maine Gray.
“Defense and rebounding are so important,” Firestone coach Dave Milo said. “We knew A.J. and Jaret would come out hot. They are great kids and great shooters. We knew we had to stop them. That was our practice for the last couple of days.”
Moore had 19 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for Firestone. Spear totaled 14 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals; Lewis finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and two blocks; and Gray added in 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“I have guys with poise,” Milo said. “You gotta keep your poise. Ellet is a great pressing team. They are athletic and we knew they were going to make a run. We can’t dribble through a press. It is frustrating at times to watch that. We just passed the ball and got it up the floor. All five of my starters can handle the ball. They are all good dribblers and they all average in double figures.”
Gareri paced Ellet with 20 points and six rebounds. Senior Miller Byrd scored 14 points, junior Joe Williams had 11 points and seven rebounds and Jones scored 11 points. The Orangemen also got seven points and five rebounds from junior Marquise Bridges.
“We have to start better and we have to be ready to play basketball when it is a big game,” Ellet coach Mark Fisher said. “We weren’t ready to play, and we haven’t been ready to play in the big games in the City.
“We gotta move the basketball, we gotta rebound the basketball and we gotta play defense. They got second shot after second shot and took the ball to the hole.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at www.ohio.com/preps.