Some scoring, good defense carry Poland, 49-34
Niles has two key players, but needs help from others.
By DOUG CHAPIN
NILES -- Basketball teams struggling to score must play strong defense to be competitive while they wait for their offense to come around. Such is the case for Metro Athletic Conference boys basketball teams Poland and Niles, who met Friday on the Red Dragons' floor.
The Bulldogs were able to open a first-half lead, then relied on their defense to hold off Niles, 49-34.
"This year that's been the story for us. We claw and fight on defense, playing with great intensity," Poland coach Ken Grisdale said. "On offense, we have multiple weapons but we are not firing on all cylinders. We are very pleased with our defense, but we're disappointed with our execution on offense."
Poland (6-1, 1-1 MAC) was led by junior guard Ben Umbel who had 14 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Lou Coppola contributed eight points and 11 rebounds and Charlie Carchedi had nine points.
Niles (4-4, 0-2) was paced by Justin Allen with 15 points and five rebounds and Sean Cleary with 11 points and five rebounds.
"We have to understand our roles better and understand what is a good shot and what is a bad shot," Grisdale said. "We had some situations late in the game tonight where we fired up early 3s when we could have penetrated. We have to start to understand time and situation better."
Niles coach Rick Kover also has problems on offense.
"We have to execute better on offense and get better shots," he said. "That is a mark of a young team, our inexperience shows at times, but our offense definitely is a concern right now. We also need to have a third player step up behind our seniors, Allen and Cleary. With teams concentrating on stopping those two, someone else has to make some shots."
Poland turned a 7-5 lead midway through the first quarter into a 27-13 halftime advantage. When Anthony DeFelice scored 15 seconds into the second half, the Bulldogs led 29-13. The lead stood at 36-21 at the third-quarter buzzer and Chris Lovell's 3-pointer 30 seconds into the fourth quarter made it 39-21, Poland's biggest lead.
Niles refused to quit and, with the help of two Allen 3-pointers, cut the margin to 42-32 on Cleary's bucket with 4:03 remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs, though, clamped down on defense at that point and held Niles to 0-for-7 shooting from the floor the rest of the way. Poland scored just one field goal the rest of the way but converted enough times from the line.
"The kids sat down this summer and listed their goals," Grisdale said. "To accomplish those goals we have to be better on offense and we have to rebound better. We've been outrebounded in almost every game and that is very discouraging. We have a chance to be very good, but we have to do some little things better."
On cutting edge
Grisdale knows he has an emerging standout in Umbel, a 6-foot-2 slasher whose athleticism is a plus on both ends of the floor.
"In 14 years I've had a lot of good players but I've not had one who has put as much time in working on his game," he said. "I don't know if anyone can cut him off from getting to the basket when he drives and right now he is our best rebounder."
The Red Dragons can take some positives from Friday's loss.
"We did not quit and that sends a message to other teams," Kover said. "The effort has been there on defense all season and we have told them that as long as we play defense we can be competitive."