Jacubec’s hot start lifts ’Cats past ’Dogs
By Joe scalzo
Struthers senior Jake Jacubec won’t impress you with his size (6-foot). He won’t impress you with his biceps (roughly the size of Poland senior Colin Reardon’s wrist). He won’t impress you with his leaping ability (average), his speed (average) or his ability to grow facial hair (nonexistent).
He will impress you, though.
Just ask Poland.
On Saturday night, Jacubec put the Wildcats on his back and the Bulldogs on their heels, exploding for 15 points in the first quarter en route to a 57-49 victory in a Division II district final at Boardman High School.
“He was feeling it,” said Wildcats coach Joe Savko, who led Struthers to back-to-back district titles for the first time in school history. “We were running everything we had to get him open shots.”
Jacubec made 6 of 8 from the field in the first quarter, helping the Wildcats take a 19-7 lead.
The lead stayed in the double digits until midway through the fourth quarter, when Poland’s defense ramped up the pressure and gave the game some much-needed suspense.
“We did such a great job of stopping everything they had in the first half, we kind of relaxed in the second,” Savko said.
But after getting within seven — 43-36 — with just more than four minutes left, the Bulldogs were forced to gamble and foul and Struthers made 10 of 15 from the foul line to close out its second straight district final win over Poland.
“They were able to stretch it to a point where it was too much for us to make up,” said Poland coach Ken Grisdale, who had won six of the last eight district crowns. “We gave it all we had.
“They’ve got a great player and they’ve got good role players that stepped up and helped them win.”
Struthers will meet Mentor Lake Catholic in a regional semifinal on Thursday at 6:15 p.m. at the Canton Civic Center.
The Wildcats lost seven players, including four starters, from last year’s team, which won Struthers’ first district crown since 1999. This year’s team wasn’t nearly as talented as that one, which makes this year’s crown more surprising — and, arguably, more fulfilling.
“Last year, it was awesome — don’t get me wrong — but winning it as a senior and going out on top, it’s an awesome feeling,” said Jacubec, who finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and three assists. “A lot of people probably didn’t think we’d do it but we did.”
When asked if beating Poland made it more special, Savko said, “I would say yes. It’s a rivalry and we’ve played a lot over the last couple years.
“I wouldn’t say the torch has passed but I like to think we’re making it even.”
Poland (17-6), meanwhile, was a bit of a surprise finalist. The Bulldogs overcame a 1-3 start to overachieve its way to its 12th district final in 19 years.
“It was just like last year,” said Reardon, a Kent State football recruit who had 19 points and 13 rebounds. “Last year was probably the least athletic team we had and it was the same this year, but we just have a lot of heart.
“We’re a scrappy team that was having fun and trying to win basketball games. You obviously have to be pretty good to win 17 games.”