Boys hoops teams head to district competition

By Rob Todor

Staff report


Ready for Round 3?

After watching Mooney knock its teams out of the boys soccer and football playoffs last fall, Poland High may get a chance at revenge when the boys district basketball tournament begins this week.

That would be something, wouldn’t it?” said Mooney coach Chris Kohl. “But you’ve got to take it one game at a time.

“You can’t look ahead.”

Top-seeded Poland will meet seventh-seeded Niles in a Division II district semifinal tonight at Boardman High while the third-seeded Cardinals will play fourth-seeded Struthers on Wednesday.

The championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Fifteen teams from the Valley remain alive in the tournament, which culminates with the state championships March 25-27 in Columbus.

In addition to the four teams in Div. II, Warren Harding is in the Div. I district at Solon; Campbell Memorial and East Palestine meet on Tuesday in the Div. III semifinal at Salem; LaBrae and Newton Falls are still playing in the Div. III district at Howland, and six Div. IV clubs will be playing this week — McDonald, Wellsville, Youngstown Christian and Lowellville are at the Struthers tournament, and Mathews and Maplewood are vying at Warren Harding.

Poland senior Ben Donlow, a starter on Poland’s state semifinalist team two years ago, needs just 21 points to reach 1,000 for his career. He would join senior Niko Fatimus, another three-year starter who reached that milestone earlier this year.

Fatimus made six 3-pointers in the sectional final win over Streetsboro to give him 251 for his career for sole possession of 10th place on Ohio’s all-time list. Bellevue’s David Faulknor is ninth with 258, followed by Nick Dials of Willard (259) and Tim Stedman of Elyria First Baptist (260).

Fatimus has already broken his single-season school record for 3-pointers with 88; he set the previous mark of 83 two years ago.

Top-seeded Harding (17-4) will take on Garfield Heights in Thursday’s district semifinal at 7 p.m.

Harding coach Steve Arnold considers size and athleticism as Garfield Heights’ biggest assets. Garfield Heights edged Euclid 59-57 on Saturday, after the Raiders beat Maple Heights, 76-61.

“They’re a lot bigger than Maple Heights,” Arnold said of Garfield Heights, a team Harding scrimmaged two years ago.

“We’re going to have to make sure we match their intensity for four quarters and we’ve got to be ready for very physical play,” Arnold said.

Since the dismissal of Fred Williams after the 13th game and last week’s season-ending injury to post-wing Angel Gonzalez, various Raiders have contributed.

Sophomore Jessie Hardin is one of those players.

“He played a lot of JV until Fred’s dismissal, so he’s been varsity for some time,” Arnold said of Hardin. “He came into his own [with 21 points against Maple Heights on Saturday], but he’s also able to distribute the ball. If he can be a threat offensively, he’ll be OK. We need him to be in an attack mode because, before Saturday, it was 5 vs. 4,” Arnold said. “Now, teams have to account for Jessie, for someone who opens lanes for other players.”

The Div. IV semifinals at Struthers feature a couple outstanding matchups. McDonald is 21-0 and will play Inter Tri-County League rival Wellsville (20-2), whose only two losses have been at the hands of the Blue Devils.

The other semifinal features once-beaten Youngstown Christian (20-1) against Lowellville (16-6), whose six losses have come against teams with a combined record of 79-6 (McDonald and Wellsville twice, Struthers and Mathews).

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