DEGRAFF – As weekends go, Riverside’s Landon Kelsey had a pretty good one.
Kelsey scored a total of 58 points in two games – both wins for the Pirates – the first 33 in a 65-60 nail-biter against Northwest Central Conference opponent Sidney Lehman Friday, Jan. 8, followed a 25-point performance in a 66-32 over Vanlue in a non-league contest Jan 9.
Kelsey saved his best for first with the 33 points he dropped on the Cavaliers. The Pirates needed every last one of them, they being unable to shake a pesky Lehman team, which hung with the hosts until the final minutes of the game. But in the end, it was Kelsey who carried the load for head coach Dean Sanford as he connected on eight shots from the floor, went 3-for-5 from downtown, and 8-for-10 from the foul line.
The Pirates (2-1 in the NWCC, 5-6 overall) had only 25 rebounds in the game, an unusually low total for a game that saw over 120 total points scored, but since Riverside hit a blistering 42 percent of their shots – field goals and three-pointers combined – there weren’t a lot of rebounds to go around. Kelsey had seven of the Pirates’ total and the Crawford brothers, Shane and Shawn, had eight boards between them. Shane also reached double-digits in scoring with 11 points.
The following night, Vanlue was the team that was hitting the shots early as the Wildcats took a slim 10-9 lead into the second quarter. After that, the Riverside All Hands On Deck Defense blew the game open, led by Kelsey and backcourt-mate Trey Helmlinger. The larcenous duo had five steals apiece – Riverside had a total of 18 as a team – and turned the majority of the thefts into points, Kelsey dishing a dime to Helmlinger (or vice versa) in transition for easy basket after easy basket. Riverside blasted Vanlue 40-12 in the second and third quarters, then coasted to the 34-point win, with Kelsey getting a well-deserved ovation and rest just after the start of the fourth quarter.
The loss keeps Vanlue winless on the year.
The Pirates again burned up the nets against the Wildcats, connecting on 45 percent of their total shots, which is just about the same percentage boasted by the National Basketball League’s Golden State Warriors, they of the 35-2 record and current NBA title holders.
Riverside is going to need to keep up the dead-eyed shooting as Pirates hit the metaphorical high seas for the rest of the season, playing 10 of their last 13 games on the road. Riverside visits Botkins Tuesday, Jan. 12, then will spend its weekend at NWCC-rival Waynesfield-Goshen on Friday, Jan. 15, before visiting Fairlawn in a non-league game on Saturday, Jan. 16.
Tom Stephens is a regular contributor to this newspaper.