By Ryan Jones
WARREN — Before the season began Warren JFK coach Bruce Timko made a promise to his 6-foot-7 senior — if the Eagles won a district championship he could wear the snipped net as a necklace.
Following a 60-54 triumph over Windham in Division IV district final at Warren Harding High School, Nick Brown donned what was left of the net around his neck as he spoke with reporters.
“This feels amazing,” Brown said of earning a trip to the Canton regional. “Our saying all season has been ‘nothing less than districts.’ Everyone had to play well to beat a team like Windham.”
Warren JFK (16-7) will play Youngstown Christian next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a regional semifinal contest at Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.
Brown said YCS is a talented team that presents a big challenge.
“YCS played us tough and taught us a lesson when we played in the regular season,” said Brown, whose team lost to YCS 81-67 on Feb. 7. “I don’t know if we were over-confident the first time, but we will be prepared for them. We don’t want our run to end; our dream is to make it to state.”
JFK’s 2-3 zone limited post touches and kept the Bombers in check for most of the game. Windham shot 15-of-54 overall and hit only 5-of-24 shots in the second and third quarters combined.
Timko said his team knew where Windham had to go on offense.
“Cody Apthorpe is a great player; he can score from anywhere,” he said. “And we knew we had to do a good job on [Clayton] Ridenbaugh from the outside. I thought we shifted well and covered up a lot of area in our zone.”
Windham (14-9) coach Marty Hill said his team didn’t play well enough to win.
“We worked on zone offense literally an entire practice because we knew they [JFK] were not a good man-to-man team,” he said. “One of our weaknesses all year has been getting the ball inside, and we got away from that tonight. They are good rebounders and shot blockers. They can intimidate you when you bring the ball into the paint.”
Brown, who scored a game-high 24 points to go with 10 rebounds, manned the middle of the 2-3 zone and protected the rim while squaring off against Apthorpe.
“The key to this game was our defense,” he said, “It’s what we focused on when we prepared for the game. Playing against Cody was awesome. He’s the type of player that can shoot the 3 and score from inside.”
Leading 22-19 at the half, the Eagles went on a 9-3 run to start the third period. Steve Procopio, who scored 18 points and snatched 10 rebounds, scored two buckets during that span.
Timko said his team felt fortunate to be up three at the half.
“We were throwing the ball away and rushing our shots in the first half,” he said. “Our offense always goes through Nick, but Steve really stepped up for us in the third quarter.”
Brown scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to give JFK a 41-31 lead with 6:58 remaining.
On Windham’s next possession Boo Timko came down with a defensive rebound and was fouled. The Bombers bench was assessed a technical for arguing the call and Timko hit all four free throws to push the lead to 45-31.
“I thought those foul shots changed the course of the game,” Bruce Timko said.
Apthorpe led Windham with 19 points and 16 rebounds and Ridenbaugh tallied 11. Rico Hall had five assists.