Keyed by free throws, Struthers wins again
The Wildcats, on 18-for-20 foul shooting, beat Canfield for the third time this season to qualify for adistrict semifinal March 7.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- The self-proclaimed worst foul shooting team in the Metro Athletic Conference picked the right time to find its range.
In Tuesday's Division II sectional final at Boardman High, the Struthers High basketball team sank 18-of-20 free throws -- including its first 16 -- en route to a 55-47 victory over MAC rival Canfield.
"I think we shot less than 60 percent on the year," Struthers coach Joe Fuline said of the Wildcats' struggle at the foul line. "But we've been working on it in practice."
The win gave the Wildcats a three-game sweep of the Cardinals this season.
"They were the better team this year," said Canfield coach John Cullen, whose Cardinals finished 9-12. "They whipped us three times. We didn't put our best foot forward."
Cullen admitted surprise at how well the Wildcats did with their free tosses.
"They're a 59 percent free-throw shooting team, but they were making them like crazy," Cullen said.
The victory advances fourth-seeded Struthers to a district semifinal showdown on March 7 against the winner of Saturday's Poland-Chaney sectional final.
In Tuesday's sectional semifinal game, Chaney (8-13) won its rubber match of the season against City Series rival Wilson, 57-51.
Canfield-Struthers: Cards junior Leo Sorice sank two free throws early in the fourth quarter to cut the Struthers lead to 34-33.
Wildcats junior Jim Franceschelli responded with a 3-pointer that opened a 7-0 run for Struthers.
"Jimmy Franceschelli has ice in his veins," Fuline said. "He's been shooting about 37 percent on his 3s."
In all, Struthers made 14 foul shots in the final quarter as it outscored Canfield 25-18.
"It was a sloppy game, but our kids stayed focused," Fuline said. "They played with a lot of passion in those last five-to-six minutes. And we out-rebounded them 38-25 -- when we do that, it's big."
Franceschelli and Jim Tabak led the Wildcats with 14 points each. Jason Mitchell netted 13.
Fuline was pleased with the spark D.J. Aldrich gave the Wildcats off the bench.
"He didn't have a lot of minutes, but he gave us great minutes," Fuline said.
Sophomore Chad Baker led the Cards with 14 points, while Sorice scored 10.
"Struthers did a much better job than us defensively, especially in the second half," Cullen said.
Chaney-Wilson: Four Cowboys reached double figures as Chaney sent the Redmen home for the season.
"We haven't done that for quite a while so it's good to see other guys picking it up," Chaney coach Jim Stickel said of the balanced scoring.
After Wilson jumped ahead 10-4, the Cowboys seized control with an 11-0 run.
"For about three-fourths of the game, we trapped half-court and capitalized on some turnovers," Stickel said.
Chris Childers led the Cowboys with 15 points, including three second-quarter 3-pointers as Chaney opened a 30-20 halftime edge.
Demar Clark's free throws midway through the third quarter reduced Chaney's lead to six points (38-32). But that was as close as Wilson would get until Antwaun Johnson dunked in the final seconds.
Roy Austin scored 13 points for Chaney, while Matt Lobaugh and Jason Bowlen netted 10 apiece.
"Chaney wanted the game more," Wilson coach Mark Cherol said. "We had an off night from the field. The combination of that with the turnovers and missed free throws were costly. They took it to us, they played a little harder than us."
Johnson led the Redmen with 15 points. Ellis Moody and Randall Poindexter contributed nine points each.
Looking ahead, Stickel said the Cowboys face a tough test with top-seeded Poland.
"Poland is a very solid team -- you really can't pick a weakness," said Stickel, whose Cowboys lost to the Bulldogs 56-50 on Feb. 19.