Gunther’s team plays well, but he’s
still looking for first win vs. SVSM
In 10 years of Keith Gunther’s head coaching career at Ursuline, he’s never beaten Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary.
But Saturday night’s 71-60 loss was the closest his teams have come.
“For us to play against a high-caliber team like that, only prepares us for the tournament coming up,” Gunther said of his Division III Irish (10-10) playing against SVSM’s Division II Irish (11-9).
“We played with them the first half and were only down by six [33-27] at the half,” Gunther said.
But St. Vincent-St. Mary pulled away and managed to keep a safe lead until the end.
“I thought Ursuline played aggressive,” SVSM coach Dru Joyce said. “We knew they could shoot the ball pretty well.”
Joyce said he was more pleased with the second half, when his Irish were more patient and took better shots, plus they got to the line and made free throws.
Although Ursuline made 20 of 46 goals, the visiting Irish made 21 of 41 from the field as well as 23 of 27 free throws.
“Defensively, we took some guys out of their game by making the shots they took much more difficult,” Joyce said.
Leading SVSM were Jalen Hudson with 18 points, V.J. King with 17 and Nick Wells with 15.
“Knowing you’re playing at a level that gives you a chance to win against a very good team with some nationally ranked players before it slips away is disappointing,” Gunther said. “When you’re playing a team of that caliber and a team that is that good, you can’t make mistakes because they make you pay for it. The mistakes we made were taking some poor shots that we didn’t need to take, and we gave up some long passes in our press and they shot a ton of free throws.”
Desmond McElroy led Ursuline with 21 points, while Ryan Strollo had 14. Ursuline’s tallest player at 6-foot-4 was Kevin Jackson, who had seven of his team’s 24 rebounds before fouling out.
Gunther said he appreciated the effort his Irish gave.
“As a coach in 10 years of playing them, when you finally get a chance to win, it’s tough to take the loss,” he said. “Yet, I’m proud of how we battled and proud of how we didn’t back down.”
Joyce was concerned with the undersized Ursuline players.
“People think that having a lot of big guys means it’ll be easy, but when you have a lot of little guys running around, the bigger guys have a little trouble putting the ball on the floor [may have it stolen],” Joyce said. “But once we got some movement and set some screens, we got little better looks and were OK.”
Joyce sees a benefit in playing Ursuline.
“We don’t have a rivalry, but, when we play each other every year, the guys get after it,” he said. “Coach [Gunther] always has a group of players who are going to pressure you and make you play hard.”