The Bulldogs won their 12th straight game and have not lost in 2002.
By GREG GULAS
POLAND -- The Poland High basketball team had already clinched the Metro Athletic Conference title heading into Friday's game with Struthers.
Still, the Bulldogs wanted to finish their conference season undefeated.
Eric Fender responded to the challenge as he scored a game-high 12 points, and David McGarry added 11 points and six rebounds as Poland toppled Struthers 56-36 at the Poland gymnasium.
"This is a great accomplishment for our kids," coach Ken Grisdale said. "To go undefeated says plenty about their character.
"We felt that we would have a good year, but we told the kids early on that if they would commit to one another and not be individuals, then we could have a great year. They are a very unselfish unit."
The Bulldogs (16-2, 10-0) won their 12 straight. Their last loss came Dec. 18th when they fell in overtime to Boardman, 76-72, on their home court. In fact, both losses for the Bulldogs this season have come in overtime contests.
Fast start: Poland got out of the gate fast, never trailing as it scored the first six points of the game and raced to an 11-4 lead after the first quarter. Junior Eric Fender had five points in the period.
A Jamie Dunn bucket at the 3:06 mark of the second period increased the Bulldog lead to 20-10, and when Lou DaVanzo hit a 3-point shot at the 2:13 mark, the Bulldogs took a 23-12 lead at halftime.
"Give them all the credit in the world tonight," Struthers coach Joe Fuline said. "They did an excellent job in all phases of the game.
"They won the battle from the start both offensively and defensively and it was just too much for us to overcome."
Bill Bartos came off the Bulldog bench in the third period to score nine of his team's 21 points, allowing the Bulldogs to take a 44-22 lead into the final period.
Strong defense: "The thing about our team is that we know we are going to have an off-night offensively," Grisdale said. "However, when you play consistent defense you will be successful and that has been the case for us this season."
If the Bulldogs had any shortcoming Friday, it came at the foul line, where they canned only three of 11 in the final period. The Wildcats outscored the Bulldogs in the period 14-12, but it was too little too late as Poland had already secured its 20-point margin of victory.
Poland was 22-of-49 from the field, while the Wildcats (10-9, 6-4) were just 16-of-40. Struthers canned three of five from the charity stripe to the Bulldogs' seven of 17.
Both teams struggled from beyond the arc, where Struthers was one of 13 to Poland's five of 12.
The Wildcats outrebounded the Bulldogs 30-28, with Jason Martin hauling in a game-high eight caroms.