DIVISION IV BOYS Sebring struggles to victory
Heritage Christian gave the state-ranked Trojans a battle, 41-35.
STRUTHERS -- No one involved with the Division IV district basketball tournament at Struthers Fieldhouse has more respect for Heritage Christian coach Larry Hackenberg than Sebring's Brian Clark.
In Wednesday's sectional final, the Conquerors limited Clark's Trojans -- the second-ranked team in the state -- to 12 points in the first half.
One-of-12 shooting in the paint will create havoc for even the best of teams.
But when the top-seeded Trojans opened the second half with a 10-1 run, Heritage Canton (13-8) couldn't reduce its disadvantage below five points the rest of the way as Sebring won, 41-35.
Meets Lowellville next
Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in a district semifinal, Sebring (20-1) will play fourth-seeded Lowellville (12-9) after the Rockets defeated Youngstown Christian, 46-40.
"We are looking forward to the opportunity to play the second-ranked team in the state," Lowellville coach Mike Mangine said of Sebring. "They are a super team. We played them last year so we're fortunate that we have that experience to draw on."
The Trojans, state semifinalists in 2004, are glad their annual tournament game with Heritage is over.
"I sometimes think that his entire season is spent preparing for us," Clark said of Hackenberg. "He really does a great job of scouting us and my guys enjoy the challenge."
Clark said his staff anticipated a slowed-down, low-scoring contest.
"This is nothing we didn't expect," Clark said. "We thought the score would stay in the 30s."
The Trojans weren't frustrated with their unusually low scoring output in the first two quarters.
Struggled in the lane
"We had 12 shots in the lane, literally 8 feet from the basket, and we were one-of-12," Clark said. "When we get those shots, we should hit seven or eight. That's 12 points we didn't have [but] it really wasn't anything we couldn't overcome."
Clark credited Heritage with five first-half blocks, with sophomore Chris Lovette getting three.
"He did a good job controlling the lane and he did a great job rebounding," Clark said of Lovette.
Trailing 13-12, Joe Amabeli scored the Trojans' next four points to put Sebring ahead for good. The 6-foot-5 senior finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Senior guard Joe James, who was running a temperature of 100 degrees during the day, hit three 3-pointers and scored 11.
"We have some sickness on our team and Heritage is not the type of team you want to play when you are unhealthy," Clark said. "A week off will help."
Mark Moore and Matt Fritz led the Conquerors with 19 and 11 points, respectively.
Lowellville 46, Youngstown Christian 40
Coming off the first tournament win in school history, the Eagles (11-11) sent a shock through the Rockets just before halftime when Kory Cooper hit a halfcourt shot before the buzzer, giving Youngstown Christian the lead, 23-20.
Lowellville responded with 9-0 run in the first three minutes of the third quarter to seize control of the game.
"We told them that we had to play much more aggressively," Mangine said. "We were way too complacent in the first half. This was the third time we played them and I think they had our number tonight."
Nolfi sparks rally
Rocky Nolfi, a 6-3 junior, was dominant in the third quarter, scoring six points on four three throws and a basket plus pulling down four rebounds.
"He's still recovering from a bad ankle sprain," Mangine said, "but he's working real hard and he rebounds well."
Senior Justin Smith led the Rockets with 10 rebounds and Nolfi had nine.
A pair of 3-pointers helped sophomore guard Mario Nero score 12 points to lead Lowellville. Jim Sudon scored nine points, Nolfi eight and Smith seven.
Aaron Agresta led the Eagles with 12 points. Steve Setnick scored 11, Dominic Vitullo 10 and Cooper seven.