Ursuline breaks Aquinas pressure in win
By joe scalzo
On Wednesday, Ursuline senior guard Khiree Gregory was accidentally undercut by a teammate in practice and landed hard on his tailbone.
He spent the next two days working with his chiropractor, then gutted it out Friday night for Ursuline’s Division III sectional final against St. Thomas Aquinas.
“I was real concerned I wouldn’t be able to be out there for my team, but it’s my senior year and I had to push through it,” said Gregory. “I had to finish.”
Playing at what his coach felt was 75 percent of his normal ability, Gregory and the other Irish guards handled the Knights’ pressure and took control early en route to a 57-42 victory at Salem High School.
“We thought he wasn’t going to play,” said Irish coach Keith Gunther. “If you really look at him, he couldn’t do a lot of the things he normally does.
“He was pretty good tonight. I was surprised.”
Gregory scored 15 points with six assists, using his quickness to break his defender down off the dribble and cut through the heart of Aquinas’ defense. Sophomore guard Ryan Strollo added a game-high 15 points — including two early 3-pointers that opened things up a bit inside — and junior guard Ralph Naples had eight points for the Irish (15-6).
“It was a great team effort on their part,” said Aquinas coach Joe Harold, whose team also had no answer for Ursuline’s 2-3 zone. “I was really impressed with how they played. It was five kids on the floor sharing the ball very well tonight.
“I thought they were flawless.”
The Irish were coming off an eight-day layoff and used that time to work on breaking pressure, which had bothered them in their first meeting with Aquinas (which they won 54-45 on Dec. 21) and in a surprising loss to East on Feb. 18. They weren’t perfect Monday — they did have 18 turnovers — but they were good enough, particularly since they had a huge size and quickness advantage.
Six-foot-six senior DeVonte Jenkins scored 13 points — which included two dunks — and his 13 rebounds were just eight fewer than the Knights’ total.
“Jenkins is just a scary athlete,” said Harold.
Kyle Dureska scored 10 points to lead Aquinas (9-13), which shot just 17 of 50 and didn’t make its first 3 until about two minutes left.
The Irish next play Rootstown and Gunther expects a heavy dose of zone the rest of the way.
“I can tell you right now that everybody is going to pack it in,” said Gunther. “No one else is going to play us man-to-man, so we’ve got to get stops and get in transition and not let them set up on defense.”