Next: JFK vs. Windham, Friday, 7 p.m., at Harding High School.
By Doug Chapin
After his team’s 47-36 Division IV district semifinal victory over Maplewood on Tuesday night, Warren JFK coach Shawn Pompelia was eager to turn his attention to Friday night’s district final.
The Eagles will face Windham High and veteran coach Marty Hill. Pompelia said JFK’s 59-39 victory on Feb. 15 at Windham should be disregarded.
“We are going up against one of the smartest foxes in the game,” Pompelia said. “We have a lot of respect for him and what he’s done with the Windham program. Coach Hill is … they named the gym after him. I told the kids after we had won at Windham about three weeks ago, I said, ‘Let’s not pretend fellows, this is a fox hiding in the woods and we’d better be ready when we see him again.’
“We’ve got to re-evaluate how we’re going to play. We’ll need a new game plan for them because they’re playing better. They didn’t play well when we played at their place and we’ve just got to get after it Friday.”
Third-seeded Windham advanced to the final with a 57-47 win over second-seeded Mogadore in Tuesday’s first game.
Kennedy (12-10), the tournament’s fourth seed, got a 15-point, nine-rebound performance from junior post Raitwan Gaston. Brendan Cox added 11 points and Carl Broadbent had five assists.
Top-seeded Maplewood (15-7) was led by Matt Spitler with 19 points and four assists, and Justin Fenstermaker with nine points and seven rebounds.
“Our biggest fear tonight was Rai, we did not how he would respond,” Pompelia said. “He’s a junior, has never been put in this situation before, he played JV last year. He was admirable tonight, what he did against Fenstermaker, an outstanding post player. It’s a maturation process with Rai, I think he’s only going to get better.”
Kennedy won a 35-33 decision over the Rockets on Dec. 28.
“They definitely have gotten better as the year has gone on, they seemed a little bit less hesitant. They knew exactly what they wanted to do tonight,” Maplewood coach Matt Urchek said about JFK. “We knew it was going to be a classic size vs. speed matchup and they executed perfectly tonight and they made shots.
“That’s what I told my kids, we were going to try to stop the interior and force them to make 3s. If they make a bunch of 3s then we’re in trouble and that’s exactly what they did.”
Kennedy shot 5-for-13 from behind the arc. The Eagles led 16-9 after one quarter and 26-18 at halftime, though Maplewood had closed to within 16-15 early in the second period. The Rockets never got closer than seven points in the second half, though the largest lead was only 12.
“We didn’t do the things we needed to do to get back in the ballgame or to take the lead early on,” Urchek said. “We didn’t play the way that we had been playing.”