By Joe Catullo Jr.
Normally when blood drips at the Covelli Centre, the Youngstown Phantoms hockey team takes center stage.
Sunday, it happened during a high school basketball game.
Two times, the Western Reserve Academy-Ursuline game was stopped for 10-minute delays for blood to be wiped from the court.
Two times, the Irish took advantage.
And two times, Western Reserve Academy was hurt, literally and figuratively, during Ursuline’s 62-49 victory.
“At one of the points, we were kind of getting tired,” Irish coach Keith Gunther said. “It did help us a little bit because right now with our rotation, we’ve got a couple of guys that are injured.
“We’re only playing seven, so that actually helped us to kind of get our energy level back,” Gunther said.
The first delay occurred midway in the third quarter when John Saucier elbowed Erick Bryant in the head on a loose ball. Bryant did not return, and WRA coach Josh Humphrey said he will probably miss about a week of action.
“He’s been playing well as of late,” Humphrey said. “He’s been contributing in a lot of different ways not just with the numbers, but being a leader on the team [as well].
“When you lose him, and he has some size, it kind of hurts some things you want to do.”
The second delay occurred early in the fourth quarter when Ursuline (6-7) began to pull away. The Irish outscored Western Reserve Academy (3-6) 20-8 in the quarter, including a 13-0 run.
Gunther said the first three quarters consisted of “nip-and-tuck” plays as he preached to his Irish how defense was going to push them through.
“I wasn’t happy how we played the first three quarters defensively,” he said. “They kept beating us off the dribble, and I thought athletically we were a little quicker than them.
“I thought in the fourth quarter we did a really good job pressuring them into some turnovers because we were denying them.”
Turnovers caught up with Western Reserve Academy — six in the fourth quarter. They tallied 12 after the first half and trailed by only two.
They committed three in the third and trailed by one going into the final frame.
“Basketball’s a game where you’re going to make mistakes, but defensively, if you get after it, allows you to get easier points,” Humphrey said. “I think that helped us despite those early turnovers. I think you can definitely point to the turnovers, but I think we just really ran out of gas.”
Ryan Strollo was taken out a few times in the first half because of his defensive play, and Gunther made sure he noticed.
“Why am I even playing you right now?” Gunther screamed to Strollo.
Strollo, inserted shortly afterwards, found his defensive ways and finished with a game-high 23 points.
The Irish have won five of its last six games after starting the season 0-6.