Boardman and Poland had not played each other since 1995.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Six years had passed since Boardman and Poland last played each other in girls basketball.
The neighboring schools have two of the area's best girls programs. So why haven't they matched that talent on an annual basis?
"That's a good question," said Poland coach Jamie Dunn.
Boardman coach Ron Moschella said, "I don't know. I just hope we can make it a rivalry again."
Whatever the reasons that have kept the programs apart, this much is certain: They finally met Monday at Boardman High, where the state-ranked Spartans prevailed 51-41.
"This is something we need to do," Moschella said of the Boardman-Poland match-up. "We will continue to play as long as Jamie's there and I'm here."
If there is any dissension among Division I Boardman (16-1) and Div. II Poland (12-5), it wasn't shown on the court Monday. Dunn and Moschella embraced before the game and chatted at length as their players warmed up.
Should be played: "I don't have a problem playing them," said Dunn, who acknowledged his desire to have played Boardman in the past several years when dates couldn't be agreed upon. "It's a game in girls basketball that should be played."
Moschella said, "We should have the battle of [Route] 224, where we play Canfield and we play Poland. We might be larger, but we're all similar schools."
Boardman and Poland last played on Jan. 21, 1995, when the Spartans won 72-32.
Dunn was Poland's coach then and most likely hadn't forgotten that Monday in the renewal.
Poland played with passion as Dunn and his program seemed more vocal than usual. Assistant coach Steve Rohan was whistled for a technical foul late in the first quarter, and later Rohan pulled Dunn away from an official.
But Boardman just wouldn't surrender on its home court. After falling behind early in the game, the Spartans built their lead and kept it.
Poland was within four points twice in the second quarter, trailed by as many as 13 in the third and couldn't get its deficit below seven in the fourth.
Putting it away: At critical times, Boardman got the ball in the hands of senior Ashlee Russo (15 points) and sophomore Amber Bland (game-high 18 points).
"We're not going to see anybody in the Div. II tournament as athletic as Amber Bland," Dunn said. "She's as athletic as you can be."
Boardman was able to hold the lead, Moschella said, by going "to Amber a couple of times, and Ashlee got fouled and went to the line [Russo was 8-of-11 overall]. That's how we've won games the last two years."
Brittany Durkin and Lauren Craig also came up big for the Spartans.
Durkin, who finished with 11 points, hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter to help Boardman gain the lead, and Craig blocked Kristy Gaudiose's shot with 43 seconds remaining in the game as the Bulldogs tried to cut their deficit to six.
Katherine McGarry scored 11 points for Poland, while Taryn Carlson and Steffi Graf each added 10.
Poland played without 6-foot senior starter Julie Gallo because of, what Dunn described as, "a team matter."