MOUNT BLANCHARD — Upper Sandusky took the lead with less than four minutes to go in the first quarter and did not lose it.
It had to have been refreshing for coach Kevin Winslow, who so often has seen his Rams start sluggishly this year.
The shots were too good Tuesday, as the Rams finished just below 60 percent and held off a late run from Riverdale for a 71-63 North Central Conference win.
There was no lull this time, with Winslow in his team’s ear every step of the way. The Rams (9-9, 6-4 NCC) scored 17, 18, 18 and 18 points in the four frames, consistent as a dripping faucet.
“I was trying to get them going, hoping they would feed off my intensity,” said Winslow of his chatter throughout. “I’ve been like that some games, but I just think the more intense I am, they respond to that. You coach to how your kids respond.”
Seth Frey led the effort with 21 points, Cody Clifford had 15 and Wes Vent added 12. Nearly all of them looked easy on a 27-of-46 night.
“They do a good job of attacking,” Riverdale coach Craig Taylor said. “They did a nice job of rotating around and waiting to get the matchup they wanted to drive on.”
Frey added nine rebounds, two steals and a block to his tally. The junior, who has risen to prominence this season, still heard from Winslow after every blemish.
“He’s been upset with our inability to talk and come out, and he feels he has to get us going,” said Frey, who led the Rams with 19 points Saturday in an otherwise forgettable night. “We came out strong against Wynford (on Friday) and we won. We didn’t against Galion (on Saturday) and we lost. Then we came out strong (Tuesday) again and we won. That’s what’s going to get it done when we want to win.”
“I can’t say enough about Seth. He was a man (Tuesday),” Winslow said. “Once again. He’s getting better and better and better and he’s only a junior.”
The Falcons (6-10, 3-6 NCC) made sure never to get too far behind. Frey finished a double-clutch layup and added a free throw for a 10-point Rams lead near halftime, and Riverdale’s Jimmy Fox answered with two shots at the stripe.
Clifford knocked down one of his three 3s in the third quarter to make it 42-29, and Fox answered back, also from 3, 10 seconds later.
Riverdale notched eight 3-pointers in all, and they helped set up a late run that nearly brought it all the way back. Holderman led the charge with two triples and 19 points. Fox hit three 3s and was just behind his point guard at 18 points.
The Falcons were still down 10 points with less than five minutes to play, but when Tony Snider stripped Vent and hit Holderman in transition with 1:05 left, they were within five.
Fox intercepted a pass the ensuing possession and streaked the opposite way, drew contact and made the basket — charge.
“I thought our kids fought and a call here or there, I’m not blaming the officials because that doesn’t do anything, but we gave ourselves a chance,” Taylor said. “We gave ourselves a chance. That’s what you want every game.”
The bucket and a good free throw would have made it 66-64 with 57 seconds left, but the charge put Clifford at the line to drain two free throws and put the win on ice.
The junior point guard scored 11 points in the third quarter to keep Riverdale at arm’s length, finding twine on 3 of 4 3s.
“He came out in that second half and said, ‘I’m going to make shots. Get me the ball,’” Winslow said. “We got him the ball and he was drilling them.”
Chad Pever added 10 points on two 3s for Riverdale, which finished 23 of 55 from the field.
The Rams won the backboards, 26-21, and the junior varsity contest, 33-19. They host Bucyrus at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Riverdale travels to Wynford at 6 p.m. Thursday.
UPPER SANDUSKY (9-9, 6-4 NCC): Frey 8-5-21, Clifford 5-2-15, Vent 5-2-12, Roeder 3-3-9, Miller 3-0-6, Collins 1-2-4, Watkins 1-0-2, Myers 1-0-2. Totals 27-46 14-19 71.
RIVERDALE (6-10, 3-6 NCC): Holderman 7-3-19, Fox 6-3-18, Pever 4-0-10, Loveridge 3-0-7, Frey 3-0-6, Stewart 0-2-2, Rickle 0-1-1. Totals 23-55 9-12 63.
3-point goals: Fox 3, Clifford 3, Holderman 2, Pever 2, Loveridge.
Score by quarters
Upper Sandusky 17 18 18 18 — 71
Riverdale 15 11 15 22 — 63
Junior varsity: Upper Sandusky won, 33-19.
By NICK MARLOW