By Greg Gulas
They say the greatest improvement a team makes comes between its first and second games of the season.
If that is the case, then the Boardman Spartans have improved enough to earn their first win of the year, yet will still look to still shore up some areas before the Federal League portion of their schedule begins on Friday.
Jamar Steverson had a game-high 16 points and 13 rebounds while Reggie Jones added 14 points to lead the Spartans past the Campbell Memorial Red Devils, 51-40, on Tuesday night at the Nicholas A. D’Amato Field House.
The win was also the very first for coach Pat Birch, who is in his first season at the helm of Boardman.
“The first win is always the hardest but this is definitely one that I am sure to remember for quite some time. I told our players to expect a dog fight with the Red Devils because this is a proud program with plenty of pride,” Birch said.
“We lost our focus and intensity in the second half against East on Friday night, but tonight I felt like we grew when Campbell made a run at us in the second half and we were able to answer with a run of our own. We’re still a work in progress, but a win is a win and we’ll both enjoy and learn from this win tonight.”
The Spartans (1-1) raced to a 10-9 lead after one period on the strength of four points by Steverson.
Boardman’s defense rose to the occasion in the second quarter, holding the Red Devils to just two buckets as they built a 22-13 halftime advantage.
“We executed better and were able to score when we were around the hoop, but we still need to improve in some areas and fast with Federal League play set to begin. It was great to get this first win, especially for coach [Birch]. We needed to break into the win column before league play started,” Steverson said.
Boardman built a 32-23 margin after three quarters, but the Red Devils cut the Spartans lead to 38-33 on the strength of five points by Deron Clinkscale as they outscored Boardman, 10-6, to start the final frame.
Seven points by Ryan McKeown and six more by Jones then helped Boardman finish with a 13-7 run and seal the victory.
“Our three’s weren’t falling so we had to drive the lane more and just protect the ball when we had it,” Jones said.
Mike Szenborn, Red Devils coach who is also in his first season at the helm, was pleased with his team’s improvement after dropping their season opener to arch-rival Struthers last week.
“We took a big step forward, executing better on offense while playing with plenty of heart and intensity. We went cold in the second quarter and that really hurt us, digging a hole that we just couldn’t crawl out of,” Szenborn said.