HUDSON — The final result didn’t go as planned.
It sure was better than the previous night, though.
When it comes to the Western Reserve Academy boys basketball team, there are times when a spirited defeat is far more satisfying than an uninspiring win.
Such was the case for the Pioneers Thursday.
Host Reserve dropped to 5-6 on the season after losing to Andrews Osborne Academy’s The International Sports Academy 72-61. The contest took place Thursday at the Murdough Athletic Center gymnasium.
It was WRA’s second game in 24 hours after an 18-day layoff because of the holiday break. The Pioneers earned a 60-56 victory over Hawken in their 2020 debut Wednesday in Gates Mills.
However, pardon Thomas Adams-Wall if he was far more stoked about losing than winning.
For the Reserve head coach, his perspective may be something like this: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
"It was a complete 180 from what we did [Wednesday]," Adams-Wall said.
It sure didn’t seem that way early.
The Phoenix (13-8), who make their home in Willoughby, ended the first quarter with a 15-0 run to take a commanding 24-5 lead.
However, WRA responded with a run of its own to cut its deficit to five (32-27) late in the second period.
Amazingly, the Pioneers got back in the game without the services of dynamic sophomore guard Chris Livingston, who has scored 40 points twice this season.
Livingston struggled to find his rhythm and spent a majority of the second quarter on the bench due to foul trouble.
"We’ve been working a lot on moving without the ball," Adams-Wall said. "If the ball is in his [Livingston’s] hands, don’t get caught watching. Move without the ball.
"If you get caught watching, then your defender is just watching him too. And then he can’t attack as much, which he’s so good at."
Fortunately for Reserve, Dimitrije Radusinovic picked up the slack.
The 6-foot-6 senior forward showcased a potent inside-outside game as he scored 13 of his game-high 21 points in the second quarter.
"He has had an ankle injury most of the year," Adams-Wall said of Radusinovic. "He’s not as explosive as he was. [Thursday] was definitely his best game, all around. He was into it. He was rebounding; he was shooting well. He wasn’t backing down from anybody and that’s the type of kid that he is."
In the long run, though, it seemed like every time Reserve had something going, ISA had a knack for promptly turning the jets back up to spoil the home team’s momentum.
WRA trimmed its margin to two (40-38) when junior forward Mikey Mylott converted a layup off an assist from Radusinovic.
And then, in a matter of moments, the Phoenix, which had several dunks off alley-oop passes, responded with a mini run to regain control of the contest.
"To our guys’ credit, they’re resilient," Adams-Wall said. "They fought back. They [the Phoenix] had an answer for everything."
Having a pair of redwoods didn’t exactly hurt ISA either.
The Phoenix’s towering duo of 6-foot-11 junior center Charles Bediako and 6-8 senior forward Keon Ambrose, a University of Alabama recruit, gave the Pioneers fits throughout the evening.
Bediako, who recently received an offer from Duke University in North Carolina, led ISA with 17 points and 11 rebounds despite some early foul trouble. He also blocked two shots. Ambrose, who picked up three fouls in the first half, finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
"I thought we should have attacked them more," Adams-Wall said of the Phoenix’s imposing duo.
Sophomore point guard Jaden Clayton added 14 points for the Phoenix and had a knack for converting acrobatic shots off the dribble in traffic. ISA also got 12 points from 6-5 junior guard Andy Barba, whose older brother Peter was a former Reserve standout.
Despite all this firepower, the Phoenix put matters to rest, thanks to Anthony Gomes. The 5-10 junior guard knocked down two critical 3-pointers in the second half.
"Their little guard [Gomes] hit a couple big corner 3s," Adams-Wall said. "That kind of killed our momentum."
Livingston, who faced constant double teams every time he touched the ball, led WRA with 18 points and eight rebounds. Nevertheless, the All-Ohio playmaker missed nine of his 16 shot attempts and was even more discombobulated at the free throw line. Livingston, who blocked five shots, made just one of his eight foul shots.
"We needed to hit foul shots," Adams-Wall said. "That definitely didn’t help."
Sophomore guard Cordell Livingston added 14 points and four rebounds and Mylott had six points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals for the Pioneers.
"It was a fun game to play in," Adams-Wall said. "Obviously, there are little things we have to clean up. Getting back in transition, that’s what really hurt. And then when they went on that run in the fourth."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.