Ursuline can’t handle East defense, intensity
By joe scalzo
If it’s easier to forget your dreams than your nightmares, the Ursuline High boys basketball team will remember Friday’s game a lot longer than East does.
Irish coach Keith Gunther will make sure of it.
Thanks to a dominant nine-minute stretch over the middle quarters, the visiting Panthers out-ran, out-hustled and — in Gunther’s words — out-toughed the Irish for a 70-45 victory.
“To be honest, I thought in the third quarter — and I never thought I’d say this about one of our teams — they kind of intimidated us,” said Gunther, whose team had won five straight. “Once we turned the ball over three or four times in a row, we kind of panicked a little bit.
“You could kind of see us backing down a little bit. And when the toughest guys on your team are doing that, everyone else follows suit.”
East’s run began with just over two minutes left in the second quarter and the Irish leading 29-24. Jamir Humphrey made four straight free throws and Deontay Scott added a three-point play with 30 seconds left to give the Panthers the halftime lead.
It was about to get a lot worse for Ursuline.
The Panthers upped their pressure in the third quarter, forcing eight Irish turnovers and 10 missed shots over the first seven minutes. By then, East was polishing off a 29-0 run.
“This is what we’ve been missing — that intensity from tip to buzzer,” said East coach Dennis Simmons. “We lost three [games in a row] that we felt we shouldn’t have lost and the guys decided together that we’re going to handle business.”
Added senior guard Taylor Johnson, “Being on the road, we got our fire back.”
Scott, a 6-foot-4 senior forward whose length and jumping ability makes him play much bigger, finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Panthers (9-4). Johnson added 24 points, with many coming from layups created by East’s pressure.
“I was just playing my man, staying at the perimeter, and as soon as the ball went on the rim, I trusted my guy to get the rebound and just [ran],” said Johnson, who also had five rebounds and four assists.
Desmond McElroy led Ursuline (5-7) with 14 points (nine in the first half), four rebounds, three assists and four steals. Ron Strollo added 10 points.
“We told our kids if we handled the pressure and rebounded and didn’t give up second shots, we’d have a pretty good chance to win,” said Gunther. “I thought we did that in the first half until about the two-minute mark of the second quarter.
“One they [the Panthers] got it going, they took their intensity to another level.”