Focused Reserve beats Leetonia
The Blue Devils improved to 13-1 and 9-1 in the league.
By ERIC HAMILTON
LEETONIA -- With a showdown with Inter Tri-County League Tier Two leader McDonald looming on Friday, it would have been easy -- maybe even understandable -- for the Western Reserve basketball team to overlook Tuesday's game against Leetonia.
And while the coach had some concerns about the possibility, it was obvious from the start that Steve Miller's band had no intentions of losing its focus.
The Blue Devils hit eight of their 11 shots in the first quarter and built a 10-point lead over the Bears and coasted to an impressive 63-44 victory to set up a huge game at the end of the week.
"I was extremely concerned and I had knots in my stomach all day thinking the kids might look ahead a little tonight," said Miller, whose squad improved to 13-1 overall and 9-1 in the league. "But we have some experienced players and some good captains that made sure we didn't lose focus.
"We've done a heck of a job to put us in the position we will be in Friday night.
"After losing to McDonald early in the year, it's been a long road to go along to get ourselves here," Miller said. "These kids have set some goals and we're getting to them. Whichever team plays the best on Friday will come away the winner."
John Porterfield made sure his team wouldn't slip up against a dangerous Leetonia squad. Western Reserve had a distinct size advantage and used it on the offensive glass and strong perimeter shooting.
Porterfield hit all five of his shots in the first half and scored 13 of his game-high 17 points before intermission. The Blue Devils shot 15-of-22 in the opening half, hitting seven 3-pointers.
By then, Leetonia (10-4, 6-4) found itself in an 18-point hole (39-21) and never threatened in the second half.
"We knew Leetonia was a tough team, so we just kept our heads up and worked for good shot selection and crashed the boards," Porterfield said. "I tried not to force the ball up and take the most open shots that I could. If it wasn't there, I'd set my teammates up.
"We're going into McDonald with a good attitude and know it's going to be a great game. We just have to be in it mentally when crunch time comes."