DUBLIN – Delaware Hayes boys basketball coach Jordan Blackburn said sophomore Ryan Smudz has the green light to shoot.
The 5-foot-9 guard has picked his spots in the past.
And he picked a couple of good ones on a pair of 3-pointers to bookend an 8-0 run in the third quarter that put the Pacers up for good.
“I feel like – this year – I have more confidence in myself shooting the ball than I did last year,” Smudz said. “They tell me all the time … when I’m open to shoot it.”
He had three in the frame to score nine points in Hayes’ 50-39 win over Dublin Scioto in OCC-Cardinal action Friday night.
“He can shoot the heck out of the ball,” Blackburn said. “A couple of practices ago, he made 16 or 17 in a row. It’s hard being a starter as a freshman – especially when you’re little. But I just have so much confidence in him because he’s tough and he cares about the team.”
Smudz wasn’t the only attaboy Blackburn handed out. He had one for assistant Keith Butts, who ran film preparation this week leading up to the game.
The Pacers defense held host Scioto to just 10 points over the final 12 minutes and 21 seconds of the game.
“This is the most connected we’ve been on the defensive end all year,” Blackburn said. “The defensive end has to be our bread-and-butter. Guarding the Princeton (offense) is not easy because there’s a lot of actions that happen right in a row.”
Butts, who graduated from Hayes in 2011, offers the team a different perspective as a former player, who was coached by Blackburn.
“They’ve been hearing it from me for quite a while,” Blackburn said. “He ran defensive film Wednesday and I thought he took great leadership with that. We just did lifting and film on Wednesday and yesterday – there was a noticeable difference in our connectedness on defense.”
Butts offered Blackburn the same message from a different voice.
“He’s an ex-player and he’s played for Blackburn – so, he knows,” Smudz said. “It was just a different perspective.”
Smudz believes the team has started playing for each other rather than playing for the coaches, which is why the Pacers have been so successful this year.
“We decided that we’re going to play for each other and not the coaches – which is what the coaches have been trying (to tell us),” Smudz said. “I think it helped.”
Blackburn said Addison Harvey played a big role, coming off the bench in the second half after sitting out the first half.
“I thought Addison gave us a lift,” Blackburn said. “For did-not-play, coaches-decision to … I thought he really had an impact on defense in the second half. I think the message of — the way that we’re going to play — I think he responded great.”
He entered the game just after a Drew Bryant basket underneath gave the Irish a 29-26 lead with 4:21 left in the third.
Terin Kinsway and Nate Griggs led the Pacers (10-4, 7-3) with 14 points apiece. Kinsway had six rebounds and Griggs five boards and four steals for Hayes, which bounced back from a loss at Thomas Worthington Tuesday night.
The Pacers still have a glimmer of hope at the OCC crown with league-leader Hilliard Bradley coming to Delaware next Friday.
The Jaguars hold a three-game lead over Hayes and a two-game lead over second-place Dublin Jerome with four games remaining.
Bryant had 11 points, Victor Mwamba pulled down eight rebounds, Zach Gawronski had four steals and Jayden Prince had four assists to lead the Irish (9-7, 5-5).
Hayes returns to action Tuesday night, hosting Mount Vernon in non-league play. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at email@example.com.