BY JOHN THEALL Sports writer
LEFT-HANDED TOUCH — Holland Patent sophomore Logan Reinold splits the RFA defense and goes up with a floater on the baseline during Friday night’s Tri-Valley League game. Reinold finished with a team-high 19 points, but RFA prevailed 74-65. (Sentinel photo by Stefan Matwijec)
HOLLAND PATENT — The last time that Rome Free Academy and Holland Patent squared off, it was senior post player Lloyd Parkmond who hit a game-winning floater in the lane in the closing seconds to complete a thrilling comeback victory for the Black Knights.
What would the two Tri-Valley League teams do for an encore on Friday night at Holland Patent High School?
RFA senior guard Jon Griggs dropped in a game-high 23 points while the Golden Knights tried their best at a come from behind victory, this time almost rallying back from an 18-point deficit, but the Romans hung on for a riveting 74-65 victory to grab a much-needed road win.
Griggs, who averages 12.4 points per game, had one of his best games of the season as he recorded his third 20-point game of the campaign. He had a season-high 24 points on opening night against Notre Dame, and finished with 23 against Whitesboro.
Rome has gone 6-1 at home this season but has struggled away from the Stan "Buddy" Evans gymnasium, going only 4-3 on the road and 1-1 on neutral sites.
RFA coach Nick Medicis said his team was not taking the Golden Knights lightly, and they were treating the game like it was a playoff atmosphere.
"We took this as a sectional game on the road against a good team in a hostile environment on a Friday night. We have to learn how to play in tough environments when things aren’t going our way. Does this group fight through the adversity, or does it turn into an individual game? I think for the most part that we stuck together as a team and got out of here with a win. That was the difference," he said.
Parkmond finished with a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, as Aaron Tennant dropped in 13 points with three steals, Justin Henry added 10 points with four assists and four steals, Elijah Johnson had eight points, and Spencer Kahler finished with seven points.
Rome got hot shooting the ball in the third quarter. They pushed their largest lead of the game to an 18-point margin after opening the second half on a 19-5 run in the first 4 minutes and 59 seconds of play.
Henry and Tennant opened up the half draining back-to-back three-pointers, followed by Johnson stealing the ball and finding Tennant on the outlet pass for an easy lay-in, and then Parkmond added another lay-up to complete a 13-4 RFA run at the 4:41 mark. Kahler and Parkmond then landed back-to-back three-pointers to hand the Knights a 55-37 lead on a 19-5 run at the 3:41 mark.
The hosts wouldn’t go quietly.
HP cut the lead down to six at 59-53 at 6:21 in the fourth quarter with a Nick Roberts’ jumper, followed by Nate Palmer’s lay-in two minutes later to cut the deficit to five at 63-58. The Golden Knights then found Logan Reinold all alone down the court for a wide open lay-in, and suddenly the Knights’ 18-point lead was cut to a 64-60 lead with 3:27 remaining.
But the Romans would not falter.
Kahler hit a lay up, Parkmond went up strong to the rim and Griggs grabbed a rebound and had a put back to see RFA go on a 6-2 run while their defense played stellar down the stretch. Griggs’ clutch free throws moments later and the Black Knights escaped with the victory.
Reinold had a team-high 19 points, while teammates Palmer added 18, Mike Strumpfler had 13, Roberts netted 10, and Matt Curtis finished with five points for the Golden Knights, which moved to 3-5 in the TVL and 6-7 overall.
"This team is scrappy, they never quit, and we take pride in letting teams know when they play us that it’s going to be a test," said second-year Holland Patent head coach Barry Cavanaugh.
"Their kids hit a lot of shots and they beat us. I tip my cap to them. They made the right plays when they needed to," he added.
The HP defense, playing in multiple formations, started with a box and 1 defense, which uses four defenders playing zone in a standard box set-up, with two defenders on the low blocks and two defenders up at the elbows around the free throw line with a fifth defender playing man-to-man against the strong outside shooter. The first time RFA faced the Golden Knights, they ran a triangle and 2 defense, which sees two guards on the outside guarding a pair of outside shooters and two players on the low blocks and another on the free throw line all playing zone. The Black Knights’ offense struggled to find their rhythm in that game from the outside as Griggs was limited to 13 points and Tennant had just six.
With Friday’s box and 1 defense, HP left Griggs for some wide open shots, and the senior would make them pay.
"I thought they were giving it to me, so I figured why not attack it," Griggs said. "The second half, my teammates started taking over for me. Our defense really helped us out tonight to get us out to a big lead, but we slipped up a bit and we have to work better on not giving up leads like that," he added.
RFA went on an 8-0 run at the start of the second quarter to push their lead to 26-20 after Griggs converted on one of two free throw attempts. Rome held the hosts scoreless in the quarter until Palmer hit a lay-up with 4:44 remaining.
The two teams exchanged jabs before Griggs went coast-to-coast with 8 seconds left and hit a runner in the lane to give the Black Knights a 36-32 advantage at halftime.
It was also Griggs’ deep three-pointer at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter that helped the Romans trail only by two points at 20-18 after the Golden Knights had just closed the quarter on a 6-2 run. Griggs hit 18 of his game-high 23 points in the first half alone, including going for 11 points with three three-pointers made in the first quarter.
With the win, RFA moved to 9-2 in league play and 11-5 overall.
The Black Knights have only two more regular season games, both at home, between now and the Section III seeding meeting on Feb. 12. Rome hosts Whitesboro on Jan. 31 and entertains Cicero-North Syracuse on Feb. 7.
Holland Patent visits Whitesboro on Friday at 7 o’clock.