Chardon senior Andrew Gray dominated the Wolverines, scoring 32 of the team's 66 points in the non-conference win for Chardon.
Andrew Gray is a gentle giant.
Chardon’s 6-foot-4 center doesn’t complain to officials, doesn’t push with opponents after the whistle. He can be dominating without domineering.
So when Doug Snyder, the senior’s basketball coach, said he was a “man among boys” after his 32-point performance in the team’s 66-43 win against West Geauga last week, Snyder was also saying something about his demeanor on the floor, the calmness of maturity.
“He’s just a phenomenal athlete, and we’re going to ride that wagon as much as we can,” Snyder said.
Gray has been recruited by the University of Maryland to play tight end for the Terrapins next season. Against the Wolverines, he looked like a basketball recruit, scoring 15 points in the first quarter as the Hilltoppers opened up a 24-10 early lead.
With a soft touch on jump shots, good back-to-the-basket post moves, Gray dominated the Wolverines’ smaller front court, even hitting a 3-pointer in that first frame.
By game’s end, Chardon led from wire to wire — and won. It was a fun night for those packed inside the gymnasium during the holiday break.
“Everything was going tonight,” Gray said afterward. “Our team was playing good, and we just dominated them.”
Gray’s teammates did a nice job of getting the ball to Gray, more known for rebounds than points, all night.
“We knew we had a size advantage,” Snyder said. “And we asked our kids to feed the post and work inside out, and they did that. You saw the results.”
“It’s crazy,” said teammate Zach Weiland, a senior. “I’ve never seen him have a game like that.”
Juniors Riley Thompson and Drew McCartney joined Gray, Weiland and fellow senior Jason Janda in the starting lineup.
Joe Fodor, a 6-6 center, did not dress for the game.
McCartney, Weiland, Gray and Fodor are all 6-3 or taller.
“I think, coming in, we really had a chip on our shoulder,” said Weiland. “Coming in, we really wanted to beat them because they’re our backyard rivals. We had a huge size advantage and we definitely used that.”
Thompson has been the team’s ironman this season, logging more minutes than any other Hilltopper, and running the team’s press break and offense with a calm hand.
Snyder said his importance often gets overlooked.
“He does a little bit of everything for us,” Snyder said. “He’s a glue guy. He plays great defense, and I mean great defense. He handles the ball, doesn’t turn it over. He’s starting to knock down shots. He feeds the post.
“He’s just playing great for us, and he has really worked at his game.”
“We actually did what we planned to do, inside out on them,” Thompson said of the West Geauga strategy. “They didn’t have anything for our posts. And we just fed it in there.”
McCartney, at 6-3, is another junior oft overlooked.
“And I’m OK with that,” Snyder added. “When he goes unnoticed on the scouting report, it’s only until the game starts.”
Senior Joe Connick came off the bench in the second half to provide another guard to break West Geauga’s press.
The Wolverines, who like to play man-to-man defense under head coach John Cardiero, never found much momentum.
“I was disappointed,” Cardiero said after the game. “I can’t figure the guys out right now. We’re trying to figure out what motivates them, gets them going.”
The Wolverines lacked intensity most of the night. Part of that was due to the fact they couldn’t make shots. The team shot two of 23 from behind the 3-point line and just 46 percent from the field.
“We need to be more physical,” said senior Anthony Insana, who finished with nine poitns. “We need to step up and get some leaders. We need to recognize their good players and defend them better.”
It’s still early in the season, but the Wolverines have struggled to find a groove, and Insana said that’s due, in large part, to the team’s lack of team-play.
“It’s hard when your shots don’t fall, but that’s when you have to play inside, play big, and we didn’t do that,” Insana said.
Point guard David Wolhope looked frustrated after the game, and had few words about the loss.
“We didn’t play hard enough or with enough heart,” the junior said. “That’s pretty much it.”
Junior Tim Snyder joined Insana, Wolhope and seniors Owen Hester and Cooper Stafford in the starting lineup. Hester led all Wolverine scorers with 13 points.
Sophomore Mike Archiable played significant minutes with freshman Micah Young.
Cardiero knew it would be difficult to stop the Chardon bigs, even without Fodor in the lineup. Stafford is the Wolverines’ tallest player at 6-4, but he’s a guard. Only the 6-3 Archiable, a sophomore, is listed as a center on the team’s roster.
“He had a great night,” Cardiero said of Gray. “We don’t have anyone who can match up with the kids in that right way, body to body. He has a nice touch, and we got him to the free throw line, and he made those, too.”
In fact, Gray was sent to the free throw line in the second half during a technical foul situation. For a center to shoot technical foul free throws is highly unusual, but Gray had the hot hand.
The Wolverines fell to 2-4 on the season with the loss.
“It’s still early,” Cardiero said. “Hopefully we can turn it around.”
Chardon has improved to 4-2. The Hilltoppers won two basketball games in all of 2012-13, so the improvement under Sndyer is already palpable.
“I just want to keep it going,” said Weiland. “We keep going up, and we don’t want any slumps at all.” Weiland finished with 13 points.
After an eight-point first half against South before the break, the team had to look inward, and Snyder thinks that helped.
“We learned a big lesson from that game,” Snyder said. “After we won our first game, we may have thought it was going to be easy. But since that first half (against South) we have been getting a little better each week. I’m thrilled for them because they deserve the success.”
The game was taped by G-TV and a DVD can be purchased by visiting geaugatv.org.
To view more photos visit bit.ly/leafphotos.
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