Border wars kick off Lorain County Holiday Classic

MORNING JOURNAL/SAM GREENE Pioneers guard Isaiah Walton (10) drives along the baseline during the first quarter of the game between the Elyria High School Pioneers and the Oberlin High School Phoenix at Elyria High School in Elyria, Ohio, on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012.

Christmas is over, which means the best of Lorain County are set to battle to see who is the best of the best this season.

The 15th annual Lorain County Holiday Classic Tournament tips off on Friday night in Avon Lake with a pair of border rivalries kicking things off with three-time defending champion Elyria battling Lorain, followed by a clash between host Avon Lake and Avon, led by first-year coach Kevin Sapara.

The Pioneers come into this tournament at 6-0 and Avon has been a very impressive 5-1, but in rivalry games as always, records mean nothing.

Elyria faces the 1-4 Titans in a rematch of last year’s championship game, but Elyria coach Brett Larrick knows the young Titans are still a dangerous basketball team.

“(Louis) Cheers’ size worries us and their quickness and athleticism,” Larrick said. “They have quick, physical guards. We’ve got to stop their penetration, be ready for them.

“They play aggressive, they battle on the boards and they’ve got a guy inside that can give us trouble. We’ve got our hands full and we’ve got to make sure our guys are ready to play.”

Lorain coach Andy Bastock hasn’t had to remind his players about how big of a rivalry Lorain-Elyria has become because of how familiar both sides are with each other.

“These kids already have the talk going on Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “So I don’t have to do much ... the kids know each other from AAU so it’s a lot of fun with the kids being able to get hyped up and talk to each other about the game and who’s going to win and all those things.”

The two teams have had great games in each of the two years they have met in the Holiday Classic since Lorain High was formed.

“We prepare ourselves to play Lorain each year,” Larrick said. “They are one of the best (teams) in Lorain County. We feel we’re one of the best in Lorain County and that’s why we should have two great games.

“Any of the four teams can win two games in two nights, but you can’t win two before you win one and that’s what we’re worried about. Watching (Lorain) on tape and trying to prepare for them, we’ve got our hands full.”

The nightcap of Friday’s doubleheader not only pits two border rivals in Avon Lake and Avon, but also two teams that will eventually play in the same conference beginning in 2015, when the Eagles move to the Southwestern Conference.

The Shoremen are 2-3 going into Friday’s game, but got a tremendous confidence boost in recent weeks after a road upset of Westlake earlier this month.

“You could just see the look in their eyes as the game was going on that they were really starting to believe in themselves and what they can do,” Avon Lake coach Eric Smith said about the win over Westlake. “You can see it in the players that their confidence is growing on a daily basis, especially after the Westlake win, that what we do is going to give us a chance to be successful.”

Avon Lake hosts an Avon team under Sapara which has won four straight and held three of its last four opponents below 40 points.

“We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of room for improvement,” Sapara said. “But I’m happy with the effort, the attention to detail the guys are giving me and so far, I’m just excited about everything at Avon.”

Sapara will get his first taste of the Avon-Avon Lake rivalry tonight, but said he enjoys those atmospheres.

“We’ll be ready to go,” he said. “I’m excited. I like rivalry games, period. They’re always more exciting, more fun. So I’m excited for it.”


Last Updated: 12/27/2012 11:22:07 PM EST

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