CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio – Defense travels to every gym.
This is what Bedford coach Pete Priola tells his basketball team. They have no home games this year due to the need for repairs to their gym. So every game is on its way.
Her seventh came Tuesday night in Cleveland Heights.
Defense came too. Bedford took advantage of this for his sixth straight win (70:58) as one of the hottest teams in the region continued its climb after starting the game less than a month ago.
Senior guard Chaze Harris reached a game high of 31 points and benefited from the relentless play of his teammates that allowed him to break free on dunks. Senior striker Malik Simmons added a double-double with 16 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.
These efforts drove the Bearcats (6-1), who take 17th place cleveland.com Top 25 this week, but played without injured young striker Malik Baker. Priola called him “the heart and soul of the team”.
“He’s a big loss and he’s a big reason we’re 6-1,” said Priola. “Everyone plays together and plays hard. Defense is what travels and that is exactly what they did to play good defense. “
That defense could still lead them to a share of the Lake Erie League championship with Warrensville Heights, which they defeated on Friday.
The UEG is only counting the first half of their league plan to crown a champion this year. Since Bedford does not start until January 16, there are still games on Friday in Maple Heights and on February 9 in Shaker Heights that influence this chase. Bedford is 4-1 in the UEG while Warrensville finished 6-1 in his first seven league games.
On Tuesday at # 19 Cleveland Heights (7-10), Bedford maintained title hopes with a defensive effort that forced 15 turnovers and turned the tide in a back-and-forth game with a strong third quarter end.
Harris and Jaylon Clark closed it with dunks. Harris, who stands 6-foot-4, hit the Tigers in transition on the first. Clark, who is just 5-9, pulled a distraction in midfield for his slam.
“That’s all we’re working on is defense in practice,” Harris said. “We start with ‘Five Out’ and the ‘Shell Drill’. That’s all we do in practice. “
Harris added that preparation for this rivalry game began on Saturday after an afternoon win at Riverside. At that time, the Bearcats beat three teams with a fourth place on Tuesday.
They took the lead 11-4, but the Tigers roared behind their seniors’ game. Of those, Smith-Johnson and EJ Farmer both finished with 13 points, while Bryon Ottrix Jr. added 12.
Heights took advantage of a 13-point run in the second quarter to build a five-point lead, but Simmons used his 6-4 frame to go inside and pull a foul on the halftime buzzer. His free throws reduced the hosts’ advantage to 29-26.
Harris gave the Bearcats back the lead forever in the final two minutes of the third quarter with Eurostep. He scored 11 of his 31 in the third and Bedford took control with a 10-point run.
The Bearcats ended the third quarter with a 14-2 run with the dunks of Harris and Clark. They also didn’t get any sales on the offensive in the third quarter while maintaining that defensive presence.
“They spin well, they help well, they take charge – little things,” said Priola. “We knew we had to box because without Malik Baker, who is one of our top rebounders, we had to start a little smaller.”
Bedford ended up with a 31-28 rebound edge when Simmons made the difference.
He missed the start of the Bearcats on January 16 in Garfield Heights because of a college visit. Since his return, the Bearcats have been perfect. More importantly, they want to bring their defenses with them for a road trip.
“I like the adversity,” said Simmons. “Every time someone thinks they have one against us, we come out and have won. It’s always a great feeling. “