Beachwood point guard John Davis III has got a lot of nerve doffing a Pittsburgh Steelers baseball cap in the Greater Cleveland area, especially after the Browns lost to them for the 15th time in the last 16 games Thursday night.
But if you look closely, the Bison and the Steelers share a similar sense of design that an initial flash of anger might obscure upon seeing the “black and gold” sported so proudly. As you might imagine, Davis has a quick explanation.
“It’s just for the colors,” Davis said, “not the team.”
Besides, after (1-1, 1-0 Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division) trounced Independence (1-2, 0-1), 81-49, on Saturday night at the South Gym, a fashion faux-pas, no matter how clever or well-intentioned, is easily forgiven.
Although Davis wasn’t the leading scorer – senior outside bomber Jared Moss held that distinction with 15 points – the sophomore guard is thought to be the team’s best player in some circles. The Plain Dealer named him as one of the area’s "Players to Watch" in its season-opening preview.
Though Davis is young, he relishes the pressure that comes with such a high degree of notoriety.
“It’s good. I can handle it. I’ve just got to lead the team. If the coach needs me to score, I’ll score, or to distribute to other players, I will,” said Davis, who scored nine points. “It’s up to the coaches. I’ll follow what they want me to do, and I’ll lead the team to victories.”
Beachwood head boys’ basketball coach Jason Pecjak sees nothing but the best ahead for Davis in his still burgeoning career.
“I’ll take him over any sophomore point guard in the state. The sky’s the limit for him,” Pecjak said. “He’s got a lot on his shoulders as far as the program goes. He knows that, and that’s why he came here. He wants to be the main guy who puts the program on the map.”
Davis follows in the footsteps of former leader Jeremiah Townes who averaged 18 points and eight rebounds last season as the Bison finished 13-9 and lost in the second round of the tournament to Painesville Harvey. Townes, who attended Saturday night’s game and grabbed a few slices of postgame pizza, plays at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
Perhaps the team could have used a little of Townes help during its home- and season-opening 48-46 loss to Orange last Friday night. Coach Pecjak said Orange’s length disrupted many of Beachwood’s shots.
“We focused in practice this week on layups and free throws, the most basic parts of the game. Against Orange, we were awful. … I thought the effort was there in both games, but tonight, we just executed a little better,” Pecjak said.
On Saturday night, the Bison put the Blue Devils away early.
After Justin Kotlarsic canned a three-pointer to give the Blue Devils a 9-8 edge at 4:20 of the first quarter, Independence didn’t score again for a little more than seven and half minutes.
In all that time, the Bison reeled off 22 consecutive points to lead, 30-9, until Joe LoConti made 1-of-2 free throws at 4:48 of the second quarter to break the spell.
The Blue Devils had a few brief flurries here and there, but never truly threatened again.
Jordan Richardson was the only other Bison to score in double figures with 11 points. Tom Baran was the Blue Devils’ leading scorer with 11 points.
The Bison host Wickliffe on Wednesday night immediately after the junior varsity game which begins at 6 p.m.
Independence 9 11 12 17 49
Beachwood 24 20 19 18 81
Independence – Patrick Wisniewski 7, Kevin Dougherty 3, Carey Artrip 2, Brett Teare 2, Joe LoConti 6, Dan Baran 5, Brandon Maraldo 2, Justin Kotlarsic 7, Jimmy Cooper 4, Tom Baran 11.
Beachwood – John Davis III 9, Ellis Cohen 4, Alex Hohl 3, Jon Tramer 8, Jared Williams 2, Anthony Valentine 8, Sterling Sanders 9, Julio Stevens 7, Alfred Hodge 5, Jordan Richardson 11, Jared Moss 15.