The Bulldogs jumped out to a 19-8 lead and remained unbeaten in the league.
By CHUCK HOUSTEAU
STRUTHERS -- The Poland High basketball team never gave Struthers a chance to factor rivalry into their Metro Athletic Conference basketball game Friday.
The Bulldogs (10-2, 5-0) blitzed the Wildcats with a 19-8 first quarter and easily routed the home team 58-44 before a huge crowd at Struthers Fieldhouse.
"We came out with a lot of energy," Poland coach Ken Grisdale said. "We came out and executed real well in the first quarter and tried to take them and the crowd out of the game early.
"We played the way we need to play to be successful."
Poland's way is to be very aggressive and attack on both ends of the court.
Strong defense: The Bulldogs' pressing defense forced Struthers into eight first quarter turnovers and the offense connected on 8 of 13 field goals to open the huge lead.
Senior point guard Jamie Dunn scored nine of his game-high 16 points in the first period.
Dunn is no stranger to the Poland-Struthers backyard rivalry. The four-year starter has had some good games in the Wildcats' gym and he was excited to get another victory.
"This is a great win for us here," Dunn said. "It's no secret we don't like them and they don't like us. We respect them, but we don't like [Struthers]."
Dunn said that the Bulldogs have been playing well the last three games and it carried over to the start of the Struthers game.
"We came out ready to play tonight," Dunn said. "Everyone did a great job of contributing. It was a great team effort."
After playing even at 5-5, Poland went on an 18-0 run that lasted until the five-minute mark of the second quarter. Struthers ended the dry spell on a Jim Tabak basket.
Struthers battled hard in the second quarter and went on a 7-0 run that got the Wildcats to within 23-12.
Poland, however, retook control and ended the half with a 27-15 lead.
"We played well on offense and defense during that [18-0] run," Grisdale said. "We are at our best when we make the other team spit up [turnover] the basketball."
Kept heat on: To make sure that Struthers, who has had a knack of coming back late in several games this year, wouldn't have a chance to regroup in the second half, the Bulldogs came out on fire in the third quarter.
Poland scored the first 10 points of the period and never looked back.
The Bulldogs opened their biggest lead of 22 points several times in the third and fourth quarters.
"That's a real good basketball team," Struthers coach Joe Fuline said. "They handled us in every phase of the game.
"Give them all the credit. We thought we had our kids ready to play, but I guess we didn't."
In addition to Dunn's strong offensive effort, Poland's David McGarry chipped in with 11 points and nine rebounds while Eric Fender had eight points and Neil Harris seven.
Poland outrebounded the Wildcats, 33-31.
Struthers got a great effort from senior guard Jason Martin, who scored 16 points. Martin knocked in four 3-pointers. He also pulled down nine rebounds.
Tabak added 11 points and six rebounds coming off the bench.