By Jim Flick
A field goal that kissed the net as time expired Tuesday night gave the Warren JFK boys basketball team a berth in the championship game of the Division IV district tournament.
As the final seconds of the game clicked off, point guard Dom Naples, a junior, found senior Brendan Cox alone under the basket. Cox sank the field goal as the buzzer sounded, giving the Eagles a 63-61 win over top-seeded Mathews on Tuesday night at Harding High School.
Warren JFK (8-15) faces Windham (14-8) in the championship game at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“I’m so proud of my guys for hanging in there,” said JFK coach Shawn Pompelia.
The Eagles players had to hang in against a determined comeback by Mathews. Warren JFK led most of the night, building a lead that reached 13 points, 47-34, in the third quarter. But Mathews stormed back, sinking six 3-point shots in the fourth quarter, and tied the game with only a few seconds remaining in the game.
“I was looking for an opening, saw Cox cutting [to the basket], found him,” said Naples. “Game over.”
Cox was in foul trouble and sat out the third quarter, but Pompelia said the Eagles “needed him in the game for his leadership.”
Naples “has been our point guard all year, he’s been running the show,” Pompelia added. “That’s the biggest assist he’s made for us all year.”
Sophomore Chandler Diles scored 19 points for JFK, while senior Raitwann Gaston and junior Robert Seger tallied 14 points each.
The loss obscured a landmark by Mathews senior Cole O’Dell, who scored his 1,000th career point against JFK. He ended the night at the game’s leading scorer with 22 points, including two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
WIndham 62, McDonald 57
In the first game of the night, McDonald (13-9) trailed Windham most of the night, and was behind 36-25 at halftime. But McDonald stormed back take a 46-45 lead after three quarters. The Bombers won the game by outscoring the Blue Devils 17-11 in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we played a little tentative in the first half. We attacked the rim more in the second half, and that worked out for us,” said McDonald coach Brian Higgins.
“Our intensity, our heart” led to the second-half comeback, said sophomore Matt Seitz, who scored 15 points for McDonald. Stephen Politano, a junior, also scored 15 points for the Blue Devils.
Windham coach Marty Hill said he warned his players that the McDonald squad “would come out fired up” in the third quarter. “They’re a well-coached team.”