By Steve Wilaj
While the frustration of Warren JFK coach Shawn Pompelia wasn’t evident on the court during Friday’s matchup with Maplewood, afterward in the locker room, his displeasure was noticeable.
With his team falling at home to the Rockets, 49-46, Pompelia’s tone grew louder and angrier as he critiqued the Eagles’ performance.
“Our practice last night was absolutely horrible,” he said. “So in my gut, I knew tonight wasn’t going to be a great outcome if we continued to play like we did last night in practice. And it showed tonight.”
Still, Pompelia didn’t want to discredit Maplewood.
“Take nothing away from them,” Pompelia said. “They played hard and wanted this game. But we showed a lack of intensity throughout our system and that’s what upsets me.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rockets coach Nathan Kish was ecstatic with his team’s effort.
“I’m happier for the kids more than anything,” Kish said. “We started off the season a little rocky. The kids could have quit but they didn’t. They’re working harder than they did then and I’m just excited to see them successful.”
Falling behind 16-11 after the first quarter, Maplewood (5-4) outscored JFK the rest of the game.
However, the Eagles (4-3) still carried a 33-31 lead into the fourth.
Fueled by a couple of buckets from Luke Urchek and a three by Nate Spitler, the Rockets led 48-43 with under a minute to play. But three free throws from Luke Feck narrowed the margin to 48-46 with 29 seconds remaining.
After a free throw by Kevin Jones pushed the Maplewood lead to 49-46, the Eagles received the final possession.
“Our goal was to defend the 3-point shot well, stay straight up-and-down and make sure we don’t foul,” Kish said.
The Rockets did just that, as Preston Caparanis’ 3-point attempt fell well short of the mark. Maplewood outscored JFK 18-13 in the fourth quarter.
“I think what helped us was just taking care of the basketball,” Kish said. “It seemed like the whole game we would get within two or three or tie it up, then turn it over and they would go score. We finally took care of the ball and rebounded well.”
Urchek led the fourth quarter charge for the Rockets. In addition to his team-high 17 points, he grabbed six rebounds and was 5 of 5 at the charity stripe.
“As a team we started playing more confident with the ball,” Urchek said of the final period. “We weren’t scared anymore. We just came in and got buckets when we needed to, got some big rebounds and ended up holding them off.”
For JFK, Dominick Naples scored a game-high 19 points.
“Naples carried us probably for the first half,” Pompelia said. “But we didn’t have guys engaged on the offensive end to make a difference. Tonight, they didn’t show up.”