He became school's all-time scoring leader with his 20-point performance.
ALLIANCE -- The only record Poland High's Chad Fender cared about Friday night was his team's.
"It was nice to break the record, but I'd rather win a state title," said Fender, whose first basket of the game broke the school's career scoring record. "I knew it would come eventually tonight, but I just wanted to get the team off to a good start."
Fender finished with 20 points and has scored 1,346 in his high school career, surpassing the old mark of 1,327 by Tom Solanovich, who played at Poland from 1951-54.
Victory more important
More important to Fender was Poland's 55-47 victory over Alliance, which gives the Bulldogs a two-game lead in the Metro Athletic Conference standings.
"It [setting the record] was extra special because we came down here and got a big victory in a tough place to play," said Fender. "We started out a little sluggish, but we finally got things going in the second half."
Poland (11-1, 7-0 MAC) struggled to get in an offensive flow in the opening quarter, but was able to maintain a narrow lead over the Aviators.
With Jim Shurilla hampered by two quick fouls, sophomore center Lou Coppola picked up the slack, dominating in the post. He scored 10 of the Bulldogs' 14 points in the opening quarter.
Alliance took its first, and only, lead of the game with 2:25 seconds remaining in the first quarter. But 11 seconds later, Fender connected on a driving layup to set the record and put Poland ahead for good.
"So much of what we do is built around Chad," said Poland coach Ken Grisdale. "We put the ball in his hands and go from there. In that first quarter, he only scored once, but he was the one getting the ball where it we needed it to be.
"He could care less about the record. He could score zero points and as long as we won, he'd be the happiest guy in the world. This team is the most important thing to him."
Poland managed to pad its lead to 25-21 before halftime, but led by as much as seven points in the second quarter.
The third quarter belonged to Fender. While the Bulldogs' defense gave Alliance's perimeter game fits, Fender found his shooting touch. The senior scored 11 of Poland's 17 points in the quarter, as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 42-31.
Third quarter crucial
That eight-minute stretch was critical for Poland.
"Alliance let us change the game's tempo by not trapping us like they did in the first half," said Grisdale. "We were able to get back to our offensive game plan in the third quarter. And defensively, we made a few minor adjustments."
After Poland led by as many as 14 points in the fourth, the Aviators fought back to within eight, 53-45, with 31 seconds remaining in the game, but by then Poland had already secured the win.
"I think this team is capable of doing a lot this year," said Fender. "We just need to fine-tune some things and I think come tournament time, we can make a run at it."