By Steve Wilaj
Following a rough stretch in the schedule, the holiday break came at a convenient time for Poland High.
From Dec. 14-20, the Bulldogs lost to New Castle, defeated Austintown Fitch and were edged out by Canfield. In turn, they wanted to make the most of their week-long break.
“Those were three really good games,” Poland coach Ken Grisdale said. “We needed to do a little bit of healing and I thought our kids had a couple of good days of practice.”
As a result, the rejuvenated Bulldogs defeated Springfield, 74-50, on Friday.
“We needed a game where we could just get back and get comfortable,” Grisdale said. “I thought we played pretty hard tonight and, for the most part, unselfishly.”
Twelve different players reached the scoring column for Poland and only one scored in double figures. Kyle Dixon, who paced the Bulldogs with 10 points, said the time off was much appreciated.
“We all got rested-up,” he said. “It’s always nice to get your body repaired almost.”
Poland (5-2) came out fast, jumping to a 16-6 lead after the first quarter. The second quarter was much of the same as the Bulldogs lead by 19 at the half.
“We played good team ball,” Dixon said. “We shared around, had a nice tempo and were able to get some easy shots inside.”
Nick Gajdas, Jake Wolfe, Steven Andrews and Matt Baker all finished with eight points apiece in Poland’s balanced attack.
“We executed really well,” Grisdale said. “We knew we were gonna see some zone and I thought our kids did a really good job of putting the ball where it had to go. Also, passing the ball, I thought we were very unselfish and willing to make the extra pass.”
Springfield (6-3) didn’t go away, though, cutting the deficit to 12 in the third quarter. But ultimately, the Tigers’ 34 percent shooting couldn’t keep up with Poland’s 52 percent mark from the field.
“We had a few runs,” said Springfield coach Eric Fender, a Poland High graduate. “The thing we wanted them to do was attack the hoop hard and get into the bonus. But anytime Poland can get a quick start, it’s a disadvantage to any team.”
Mark Schuler led the Tigers with 12 points and six rebounds, while Ryan Kohler added nine points and Nathan Simboli eight.
“Poland is one of the best teams in the area,” Fender said. “I think a benefit that we can take out of it is that if we can go out and compete and find some positives, hopefully it will help us for the future.”
Poland’s pressure forced Springfield into 19 turnovers, while the Bulldogs also had 17 turnovers as well.
That is something Grisdale said Poland has to improve on going forward.
“I think we’re a good team, but I don’t know if we reached our potential yet,” Dixon said. “We just have to get better at executing our stuff. But I think we’re going to be a very good team eventually.”