Bigger John Hay turns back Struthers
(5) Ja'Meire Brown of Struthers tries to drive into the John Hay defense during their game Thursday night in Canton.
Division II Boys regional
John Hay 74
By Jon Moffett
Joe Savko did his best to console his senior-laden Struthers High team after having its season end in the regional semifinals.
He urged the players not to hang their heads. He implored them not to be disappointed. After all, the team had done so much for the school and the resurgence of the boys basketball program, what exactly did they lose?
“You guys saw the following we had out there,” the coach said of the hundreds who made the trip from Struthers to the Memorial Civic Center for a Division IV regional semifinal game against Cleveland John Hay. “The community, they were behind us the whole way. One of our assistants in there, he said ‘If the community could come in the locker room, they’d be saying thank you.’ And that’s what these kids accomplished.”
Struthers was outmatched by John Hay, falling 74-60 one step from the regional title game.
They say if you live by the sword, you’ll eventually die by the sword. The same applies to the 3-point shot.
Whenever an opponent had to watch tape on Struthers, one thing stuck out: perimeter shooting. But after season filled with sharpshooting, there were no more bullets in the chamber and Struthers was shooting blanks. The team made only 11 of their 49 attempts from long range.
The Wildcats (21-2) had scratched and fought their way through a season that included an All-American Conference White Tier crown. But the Hornets (16-8) declawed them and left Struthers pawing at air.
And the outside shooting was critical because getting inside of the Hornet defense wasn’t even easier said than done.
John Hay had a distinct height advantage. Three Hornets measured in at 6-foot-3 and a fourth, senior Chaz Rollins, towered over the guard-oriented Struthers team at 6-foot-6. Struthers’ tallest player was senior post player Jordan Ryan at 6-foot-5.
All of the Wildcats’ first-half points came on three-point plays. Five of those were shots from beyond the arc — four by junior Jake Jacubec and another by older brother Nate. The other points came off an and-one effort by senior Adam Ryczaj.
Savko said the team’s inability to drive the ball hurt the entire offense. Without any penetration, the Wildcats’ deep-ball shooting became more predictable.
“It’s no secret their length hurt us,” Savko said. “And that combined with them playing very well on offense and making plays when they needed to make the plays — which seemed like every possession — that’s a deadly combination.”
One of the bright spots for Struthers was Jake Jacubec. The junior shooting guard netted six 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 24 points.
But even then, the rhythm of the Wildcats’ inside-outside game was disrupted.
“It hurt us a lot [to have little success inside]. We tried to get the ball to Adam [Ryzcaj] in the high post so they would converge and we could kick it out for 3s,” Savko said. “But it seemed like with [Rollins] in the middle they didn’t have to converge as much on Adam.
“So when we did kick it out, they still had hands in our face,” he added. “So, it was just a tough night for us shooting in general.”