By Ryan Buck
Facing a starting front court averaging more than 6-foot-6 per man, the Struthers boys basketball team was lost amongst the trees Saturday in its matchup with Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin.
The Lions (3-0) raced to an 11-0 lead to open the contest and never looked back, taking down the Wildcats 65-24 in the opening boys game of the Hope Classic at Struthers Fieldhouse.
NDCL orward John Cirillo (6-5) and center Chris Shkil (6-9) had too much size for Struthers’ undersized line-up. Cirillo posted 22 points on the night, while Shkil added 16.
Sixth-year Struthers coach Joe Savko was very impressed with the Lions’ offensive execution.
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Savko said. “They’re well-coached, they take care of the basketball and they take good shots. Those are two keys in high school basketball. They put a whoopin’ on us today.”
Senior David Stewart’s put-back off his own miss gave the Wildcats their first points of the game more than six minutes into the game.
The Wildcats (2-2) managed just three field goals in the first half. Cirillo, a junior, scored 14 in the first half and led the Lions into intermission with a 32-9 lead.
“He’s a very good player,” Savko said. “They can work inside and then outside, but they kick it back in looking for him. They work off of that.”
Using a refined post-up game and a smooth outside jumper, Shkil picked up right where Cirillo left off after the half. The senior dropped in nine third-quarter points to extend the Lions’ lead.
The Lions’ post players are equally adept at seeing the floor and moving the ball.
“One of the things that we’ve absolutely been stressing is playing team basketball,” said first-year NDCL coach Chris Poulos. “We constantly try to reverse the ball. We constantly try to make three or four passes so that we can get the whole offense involved.”
Savko’s squad is learning how to deal with the graduations of four of last season’s starters, including Division II District Player of the Year Jake Jacubec.
“There’s different kinds of leaders,” Savko said. “Jake was a leader by example. Everybody wanted to do their best because they didn’t want to let him down. We’re working pretty much on building something new here,” he said. “We’re just going to have to learn as we go.”
Stewart led Struthers with seven points.