In Monday night’s Div. II district semifinal against Struthers, Ravenna did its best to repeat a comeback victory similar to the one it won on Feb. 29, when the Ravens stunned Lakeview after trailing by 22 points.
This time, however, Ravenna (13-10) fell short and the top-seeded Wildcats prevailed, 72-60.
Struthers (18-4) trailed just once, 3-2, then stayed several steps ahead the rest of the way.
“They’re just going to try to out-athletic you,” Struthers coach Joe Savko said of Ravenna’s odd style offense. “They’re going to try to get the ball and try to go by you and score, so we have to make stops and we have to limit them to one shot. We didn’t always do it and gave them a lot of opportunities.”
Jake Jacubec had 27 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals for the winners, while Tom Kimbrough had 14 and Jordan Sapp 13.
Jacubec, who averaged 26.2 points during the regular season, scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter.
Jermaine Justice had 21 points and nine rebounds and gave the taller Ravenna team a shot in the arm in all phases.
However, the final turning point may have been when the 6-6 Justice fouled out with 3:15 remaining.
“We knew he’d be very active and go after everything,” Savko said of Justice. “He tries to steal the ball, he tries to block shots, he tries to take the ball and score; he just does a lot of things.
Although Justice’s exit was Struthers’ salvation, it wasn’t accomplished easily.
“We couldn’t get our guys to figure out that he was going to catch and go right, so that, if you beat him to a spot, you could take a charge on him,” Savko said of one of Justice’s tendencies. “We were trying to get our guys to get one [a charging foul against Justice], but we just couldn’t get it.”
Struthers jumped out to a 19-7 lead after one quarter, then watched Ravenna close the cushion to 35-29 early in the third quarter.
“It was no secret,” said Savko. “We pretty knew that they were going to get the ball and attack.”
Not only was Savko satisfied that his top scorer had his usual output, but the Struthers coach was pleased by the play of others.
“Jake’s going to do what he always does, but we’re most effective when the other guys are involved,” Savko said, noting the contributions of Kimbrough.
“Tommy made some big plays for us on the offensive end and the defensive end,” Savko said. “Everybody who came off the bench played great minutes,” the coach said of other players such as Christian Walker’s hustle to retrieve loose balls.
“That’s the effort we need because we know what we’re going to get from Jake [Jacubec]. We need the other guys to make plays and tonight some guys did.”
Poland and Southeast play in the other semifinal on Wednesday. If Poland wins, Struthers will meet the team it narrowly beat in last year’s district championship game by a score of 36-33.
Asked about the possibility of playing Poland, Savko said: “We’ll be ready for whoever we’ve got to face. We’ll come and scout on Wednesday night and see what happens. Either way, we think it’s going to be a battle.”