Sebring breezes against Struthers
The Trojans won their 12th straight game at the Fieldhouse 65-47.
STRUTHERS -- There's no question where Sebring High basketball coach Brian Clark's favorite home-away-from-home is -- Struthers Fieldhouse.
"They really enjoy playing on this floor -- we've won our last 12 games [here]," Clark said Friday after the Trojans (19-1) wrapped up the regular season with a 65-47 victory over Struthers.
Joe James' 21 points led Sebring's lineup that features four returning starters from last year's state semifinal team. Matt Ferguson and Jesse James scored 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Road to regionals
Clark said playing well in Struthers is the only way for a Division IV team to acquire regional experience.
"Our tournament record in the '90s really was not that great -- it was [regarded as] sort of a curse coming down here," Clark said. "So I made it a challenge to the kids that I've had since day one that this is the place where you have to play well at the end of the year.
"We've kind of made this East Sebring High School the last couple of years," Clark said.
The lopsided final score doesn't indicate the fight that the Wildcats (5-15) put up on senior night.
"Any time you play against seven seniors who want to play that hard, you're in for a challenge," Clark said, referring to a physical third quarter where the Trojans were awarded six technical free throws.
"We were able to hold our composure in a very physical game and run our sets and stay in offense," Clark said. "We never lost focus of what we wanted to do in the second half."
Trojans trail at halftime
For only the second time this season, the Tri-County League champions trailed at halftime, 23-21. The other time came against another Metro Athletic Conference opponent -- Sebring's only loss was a 44-35 defeat at Salem.
Of playing up against MAC teams, Clark said, "You know it's going to be a tougher, grittier contest. You go on the road and things get difficult.
"I give credit to every one of the kids who played tonight who held their composure," Clark said. "I think that was the biggest difference in the third quarter."
Sebring jumped out with a 12-2 run to open the second half to seize control of the game.
Two minutes into the third quarter, Struthers senior forward Alan Daniels took his fourth personal foul.
"Daniels is a strong kid," Struthers coach John Corey said of his 6-foot-3 player. "He was able to match up with their big guys, be physical with them and make them earn some points."
Late in the third quarter, Struthers senior Dave Mathews' 3-pointer cut the Trojans' lead to 40-32. Joe James answered that shot with his own trey at the buzzer to knock the wind out of the Wildcats.
Big third quarter
The Trojans outscored the Wildcats, 22-9, in the third quarter after Struthers made 3-of-8 attempts.
"That third quarter, we didn't get many good shots off," Corey said. "They are a very successful team and a very competitive team -- I think they would be very competitive in the MAC."
Despite the rough third quarter, Clark said he enjoys when his team plays bigger schools.
"Their team speed is fairly decent and they are gritty kids," Clark said of Struthers. "They stepped up and challenged us for three quarters probably as hard as we've been challenged physically."
Mathews finished with 13 points. Struthers opens the Div. II tournament at Boardman High Monday at 6:30 p.m. against Girard.
Top-seeded Sebring returns to Struthers Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. to face the winner of Monday's Canton Heritage-Leetonia game.