Despite a losing record, Sharpsville played close game against Kennedy Catholic.
SHARPSVILLE -- Oh, those backyard rivalries.
Look only at the records, and the matchup between Kennedy Catholic (14-3) and Sharpsville (3-16) had the potential to be a blowout.
However, as the game unfolded Friday night, it became apparent that it was going to be anything but, as Kennedy held a two-point lead (53-51) with 3 1/2 minutes remaining before pulling away, 63-52.
"Teams play their best games against us, but that is what we get all the time," said Kennedy coach Tim Loomis. "It puts the kids to a test because there are no easy games when you play in a real league like this is now.
"They [Sharpsville] did a lot of things extremely well. To be honest about it, I don't know if they can play any better than they did tonight."
Back and forth
Kennedy led early 9-2, but the Devils answered with a 12-4 run for a 16-13 lead after one quarter.
"These kids came out and stayed with the game plan," said Sharpsville coach Rob Spon. "At times throughout the year, they would try to do too much on their own. I told the seniors 'We have to go out there and stay in the zone and try to shut them down.' For the most part, they did a good job of executing it."
The Eagles trailed by as many as six in the second quarter, but finished with a 9-2 run for a 28-27 lead at the break.
"I think that [the ability to battle back] reflects a little maturity on the part of these kids," said Loomis. "We as coaches aren't going to panic if we are seven down with 20 [seconds] to go, and I stress that same philosophy to the kids.
"The one thing I am learning about this team is that if we don't defend hard and get after people for at least 28 of the 32 minutes, teams are going to be able to stay close to us because we are not a great offensive team," he added. "We didn't get after it defensively until we were threatened."
The Blue Devils were hampered by foul problems, as Shawn Valenly picked up three in the opening half and was whistled for his fourth in the first minute of the third period.
"Shawn has been our best rebounder all year, and you saw what happens when he goes down," Spon said.
However, R.J. Golub stepped up with a 25-point effort for Sharpsville.
"They did a good job of isolating him and letting him drive and score," said Loomis of Golub.
"We aren't that big, and they have a lot more talent than we do, but I think R. J. Golub played one of the best games tonight that you are going to see around this area," said Spon.
David Jackson took charge for the Eagles down the stretch. He finished with a team-high 23 points, including 11 in the fourth period. He also had 12 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots.
"There were a few times there when it was a 3-to 5-point lead, I demanded that [Jackson] get the ball where we run a set play for him and he scored on it," said Loomis. "He wasn't getting into the gaps in the zone well tonight, but when we needed him, he stepped up."