Gresham boys basketball struggles to find chemistry in 61-50 loss
It was the little things that sunk Gresham boys basketball in its home opener Friday, Dec. 10.
The Gophers missed 10 free throws, gave up 20 offensive rebounds and missed six layups in a difficult 61-50 loss to Cleveland High School.
"Those are the things that kill you on the court," said Coach Erik Lyslo. "That is a talented Cleveland team, we can't give them those opportunities."
Gresham (1-1) never found a rhythm in a game that saw them trailing from the tip. Junior point guard Esyah Pippa-White struggled with just 10 points after pouring on 35 points in a 91-52 blowout versus Crook County to open the season. His backcourt partner junior Scotty Riddle's game-high 19 points against Cleveland (3-1) wasn't enough to overcome the deficit. As a team Gresham struggled to rebound and secure the ball, with costly turnovers throughout the contest.
Many of the issues on the court could be attributed to a mandatory two-week shutdown for the Gophers' basketball program due to COVID-19 concerns, preventing them from being able to practice and led to the rescheduling of a game against Sprague earlier this month.
"We knew we were behind everyone else coming into tonight," Lyslo said. "We don't have that chemistry yet."
There were moments where it felt like the Gophers would right the ship and take the lead.
With 1:42 left in the second quarter, Pippa White scored a twisting, athletic layup — his first field goal of the night — to cut it to a one score game. Then, late in the third quarter, Gresham cut the lead to 38-33 after a flurry of deep shots from sophomore RJ Alexander, who hit three 3-pointers in a row. Alexander ended with 11 points.
But each time Gresham threatened to take the lead, the Warriors struck back.
Leading the way for Cleveland was 6-foot-5 junior forward Jackson Cooper, who was a menace on the boards. Many of his team's 20 offensive rebounds were hauled in by Cooper, who also used his strength for easy looks at the rim or to fight his way to the free throw line. He ended with a team-high 18 points in what otherwise was a balanced attack, with Jamel Pichon scoring 11 points and Sean Chris Tresvant notching eight.
While the offense looked rocky throughout the game, Gresham's defense was stout for long stretches. Guards Amari Johnson and Donavon Ferguson both brought energy off the bench while checking the ball, keeping their squad competitive in an ugly first quarter, and Riddle added to his offensive showing with several blocks on the other end.
Gresham will look to bounce back Wednesday, Dec. 22, against Sheldon.
"You don't want to peak in December," Lyslo said. "We are going to get better."
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