East Liverpool stayed close in the first half with the nationally-ranked Irish.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
AKRON -- The East Liverpool Potters had been playing their best basketball of the season. Unfortunately, their task Friday night was to face nationally-ranked Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and its star player, LeBron James.
James scored 26 points and had 10 rebounds to lead the Fighting Irish to an 83-55 win over East Liverpool before 4,121 fans at Akron's James A. Rhodes Arena.
The Potters (8-4) shot poorly in the first half yet managed to stay close to the Irish.
East Liverpool, behind the talented and scrappy guard play of Brett Green, Josh Reed and Scott Scales, played determined basketball, although they were clearly out-manned by the bigger, stronger Akron players. They trailed by just 12 points, 39-27, at halftime.
"I think we played well in the first half," said East Liverpool coach Nick Aloi. "We played hard on defense, we had some good looks at the basket offensively, but our shots didn't fall."
Aloi also thought his defenders, especially Roosevelt Kirby, did a good job of keeping James somewhat in check in the first half.
James had just 13 points in the first two periods.
Came out flat: Irish coach Dru Joyce, a graduate of East Liverpool High School in 1973, said his team wasn't emotionally ready to play his former school.
"We stunk in the first half," Joyce said. "We didn't play well at all. Fortunately, we started to play more aggressively on defense in the second half and that enabled us to pull away."
Dru said that the Quakers were a formidable opponent.
"We knew that they had great guards and that they would scrap and play hard," Joyce said. "They are a good team and they gave us a good challenge in the first half."
But the Irish had too many weapons for the Potters to contain for long.
Key quarter: James scored eight points in the third quarter, and sharp-shooting Dru Joyce, son of the coach, had five of his 17 points in the period. Sophomore Corey Jones came off the bench to score all seven of his points as Akron outscored the Potters 22-10 to open a 61-37 lead after three periods.
East Liverpool showed it also had some athletic ability as its guards all played good basketball, and freshman Brian Kreefer came off the bench to score nine points.
Green showed his one-on-one ability by scoring 14 points, although he was guarded by James most of the night.
Kirby scored nine points and Scales added eight points for the Potters.