BOYS BASKETBALL Poland's defense too much for Springfield
The Bulldogs won for the 18th time this year 53-38.
POLAND -- Opposing coaches have to look long and hard to find a weakness on the Poland High boys basketball team.
When he developed a game plan for Friday night's game against the Bulldogs, Springfield High coach Grant Spaite thought he found one.
The Tigers employed a triangle-and-two defensive scheme designed to limit the damage by Poland standout Chad Fender.
"We wanted to take him out of the game a little bit and make someone else beat us," said Spaite.
Careful what you wish for.
While the strategy was effective for the most part, as Fender was limited to just two field goals, it didn't do much in stopping Poland's other weapons.
Sparking the Bulldogs
The inside duo of sophomore Lou Coppola and senior Luke Blangero combined for 24 points and nine rebounds, as Poland defeated Springfield 53-38 in its regular season finale.
"We were concerned with their size inside, so it was a pleasant surprise that we outscored them inside," said Poland coach Ken Grisdale. "Springfield did a nice job with the triangle-and-two and we were a little confused and didn't execute well against it.
"But I thought our defense was the key to our win. We held them to eight points in the fourth quarter and scored enough points to win."
Coppola (14 points, five rebounds) and Blangero (10 points, four boards) outscored Springfield's starting forwards 24-10, including 15-5 in the opening half.
Blangero's offense was something Grisdale doesn't rely on, but was more than happy to see it.
"Any points he scores are bonus," he said. "He's our rebounder and defensive specialist. He can run the court in transition and can really finish with his athletic ability. Tonight he was just able to be in the right spots, at the right time."
Started to pull away
The Bulldogs built an 11-point advantage late in the third quarter, leading 35-24 after Erik Carlson's 3-pointer.
But Springfield put together a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 35-30 heading into the final quarter.
Andrew Schuler got the Tigers even closer with 7:36 left in the fourth, with a 2-point basket, trimming the lead to 35-32.
That's when the Bulldogs' defense dug in and Jim Shurilla asserted himself. The senior scored four straight points and Coppola scored off a missed free throw to put Poland ahead 41-32.
With 2:14 left, Shurilla added another score to increase the advantage to 47-37 and force the Tigers to start fouling.
Hot at the foul line
Fender connected on 8-of-8 free throws in the final two minutes to seal the deal and ensure Poland's 18th win of the season.
"Poland just has so many weapons," said Spaite. "The guys they needed to step up did and as usual, their defense was very sound."
The Bulldogs will now take some well-deserved time off before their Division II tournament opener next Saturday at Boardman.
"I don't think we've had a day off in a month and a half," said Grisdale. "We just need some time away from the gym to rest up and hopefully get ready for a run deep into the tournament."