SHAKER HEIGHTS – Anthony Wells saved his best for last Friday night. Last half, last quarter, last minute.
Thanks to Wells’ efforts, the Shaker Heights Raiders were able to out-last Euclid 50-43 in a Lake Erie League boys basketball game. The junior guard scored the game’s final eight points over the last 4:44 as the Raiders improved to 4-1 overall, 2-1 in the LEL.
“Wells is good, if he can ever find his jump shot,” Shaker Heights coach Bob Wonson said. “It’s like it’s in a pawn shop or something. As soon as he gets that out of hock, he’ll be really good. He’s a good player, as proven by the fact Cleveland State offered him a scholarship after his sophomore year.”
Wells scored 15 of his game-high 17 points in the second half and had a big hand in two of the Raiders’ three scoring spurts in the final two quarters. He assisted on a Darius Minor bucket to start the third quarter, then made a pair of shots of his own as Shaker scored six quick points to start the second half, turning a four-point deficit into a two-point lead.
Euclid (1-2, 0-2) bounced back from that run with an 8-0 spurt of its own to lead 32-26 with 2:57 left in the third quarter. That’s when the other half of Shaker’s dynamic duo, senior Darius Minor, took over.
Minor, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, scored 10 during a 16-9 run. He made 5-of-6 shots during the stretch.
“He started taking the game over,” Wells said. “I had to fill in my and of the bargain.”
Wells did that after Euclid’s Darrell Blanton scored the last of his team-high 14 points to give the Panthers a 43-42 lead with 4:44 left.
Euclid didn’t score again, missing its final four shots and turning the ball over four times down the stretch, three of the miscues unforced.
“I thought we got it to the rim a couple times,” Euclid coach Sean O’Toole said. “We had some point-blanks that just didn’t go. It was real physical down there. We don’t practice how physical it was tonight.”
Wells answered Blanton’s final bucket with a layup and a 44-43 lead with 4:20 left. After a flurry of turnovers by each side, Wells split a pair of free throws with 2:37 left, but Shaker still led by just a pair.
The Raiders then went into a delay and milked about 90 seconds off the clock. Seeing an opening, Wells attacked, laid the ball in and was fouled. He converted that free throw for a 48-43 lead with 1:03 left.
Wells said the key to his and the Raiders’ fast finish was defense.
“That was our goal from the beginning, to play good defense,” he said. “It took us a while. In the fourth quarter when it really counted, we had some people step up and hit some key shots.”
The Raiders struggled early, making just six first-half field goals, while turning the ball over 11 times. They were out-rebounded in the first half and generally outplayed. Yet Euclid led only 24-20 at halftime.
A lot of that was thanks to a Shaker defense that forced 10 turnovers and held the Panthers to just 9-of-27 shooting.
“Shaker’s pressure is outstanding,” O’Toole said. “It’s the best pressure we’ll go against, because it’s so unpredictable. There’s no rhyme or reason with it.”
Euclid struggled throughout, shooting just over 30 percent for the game. The Panthers made just 6-of -24 second-half shot attempts.
Blanton was solid throughout, shooting 7 for 14 from the field, but his teammates were a combined 8-for-37.
“I don’t think we’re by any means a great shooting team,” O’Toole said. “But we should shoot better than we did tonight and we should take better shots than we took tonight.”
Blanton finished with 12 rebounds for the Panthers. He also blocked four shots. Devon Jennings added 11 points for the Panthers but missed all 10 of his 3-point attempts.
Kenneth Agee chipped in eight rebounds for the Raiders. Minor had seven as Shaker won that battle 30-29.
“We got off to a slow start,” Minor said. “We were too excited and we kind of rushed things a little bit. In the second half we calmed down and got it done.”