By John Kovach
HOWLAND — The hope and promise that the Howland High boys basketball team enjoyed early against highly-skilled Poland on Friday night was short-lived.
Howland’s good start melted away as the Bulldogs’ tenacious defensive pressure created a flood of points.
Howland did show early that it was not going to be a pushover and pulled to within 23-21 early in the second quarter and was on the verge of taking the lead.
But Poland used its defensive pressure to create turnovers and points and reeled of a 13-0 run for a 36-21 advantage.
The Bulldogs (13-1, 3-1 All-American Conference Red Tier) continued with the same intensive-pressure strategy to outscore Howland by 23-10 in the second quarter for a 46-27 halftime command, rolling to a 93-65 victory.
“We began to click on the first [defensive-pressure] trap and we got quite a few steals,” Poland coach Ken Grisdale said. “That forced them to throw some wild passes and gets them stretched out. We had a lot of steals. We picked up the defensive pressure with the first trap.”
Poland came up with 12 steals.
And the Bulldogs made 37-for-76 from the field, including 14-for-31 from 2-point range to complement its effective defense.
Grisdale said the first trap is important to his team’s defense because “it gets [the other team] on their heels and they make bad passes and puts them at a disadvantage.”
Howland (6-9, 1-4) coach Dan áampana said his offense was unable to cope with Poland’s increased defensive pressure.
“Early, we did a nice job seeing the open guys and not trying to dribble through their pressure,” Campana said. “Then we started to commit the turnovers.
“We tried to dribble through their defense. We missed some bunnies and they made some of their shots,” Campana said. “We did a nice job staying with them for a while.”
T.J. Lanier led Howland with 20 points while Matt Haering added 16.
Poland played 14 players and nine of the Bulldogs got into the scoring act led by Niko Fatimus with 24 points, including six 3-point goals.
Ben Donlow added 15 points, Luke Wollet and David Baker 10 each and Darius Patton and Drew Wagner nine apiece, Wagner netting all his points on treys on a perfect 3-for-3.
Baker also had eight rebounds and Donlow seven while Wollet had 11 assists.
Grisdale said his rotation of players increases the effectiveness of his team.
“One group [of players] energizes the other group [which then] energizes another group,” Grisdale said. “We still are giving up too many rebounds.”
Campana said that Poland was relentless in its defensive pressure.
“They kept it up from the start and kept it up the whole game,” Campana said. “We did some good things early. We attacked and finished the whole game.
“We missed some shots and had turnovers.”
Poland continued its strong offensive play into the third quarter with an 8-0 run to build a 55-27 advantage, but Howland battled back and managed to hold Poland to only a 19-17 scoring advantage in the third quarter. The Bulldogs surged away again behind balanced scoring.
Grisdale said his team is making a comeback after suffering its only loss at Canfield.
“We had a little lull. I think we are picking it back up,” Grisdale said.