By Steve Wilaj
Before the Poland High boys basketball season began and into the early portion of the schedule, Coach Ken Grisdale noticed two things.
First, he has a lot of good basketball players.
Second, he has a lot of good players that deserve playing time.
So, with his rotation of 10-or-more players, he couldn’t help but wonder how all the talent would mesh. Turns out, there was no reason for concern.
“I love the chemistry that has grown over the season,” Grisdale said. “I think that we’re just very unselfish.”
This was never more evident than on Tuesday, as Poland defeated Boardman, 64-34, with no player scoring in double digits.
Thirteen of the 15 Bulldogs that saw action reached the scoring column
“We’ve got a lot of depth and that helps us all stay fresh,” Poland senior forward Jake Wolfe said. “We rotate four guys in every couple minutes, and when you do that, you really balance the scoring.”
Jared Burkert was the top Bulldogs scorer with nine points, while Kyle Dixon had eight, Dan Black scored seven, Austin Wilson totaled six and Wolfe, George Chammas and Matt Baker each had five points.
Boardman was paced by Ryan Fryda’s and Preston Stitt’s nine points apiece. Sebastian Heinenon also added eight points for the Spartans, who shot just 33 percent from the field.
“Poland’s a tough team to beat and I told our guys that that’s a program we need to be like,” Boardman coach Pat Birch said. “They’re consistent, skilled — all the things you want to be. So we look at them as where we’re trying to get to down the road.”
Grisdale pointed to Wolfe — averaging 12 points per game and celebrating his birthday on Tuesday — as an example of just how unselfish Poland (14-2) plays.
“Jake’s our best player and can be averaging, on most teams, 20 [points per game],” Grisdale said. “But when your seniors are willing to sacrifice and care about the teammates, it spreads.
“We have a lot of guys that can score a lot of points, so it speaks to how much they care about each other.”
The Bulldogs wasted no time disposing of the Spartans (2-15), jumping to a 36-11 halftime lead. This was keyed by a 22-5 second quarter.
In all, Poland shot 49 percent from the field, including 9 of 26 from beyond the arc.
“We won, that’s what matters, so it was a good present,” Wolfe said. “It was nice to come in here and get a win and prepare us for Friday.”
The Bulldogs will host Canfield and try to avenge their Dec. 21 loss to the Cardinals. Poland fell in overtime, 55-51, in that first matchup.
“We’re looking forward to Friday night,” Wolfe said. “We’ve had this game circled for a long time. We’ve had our eye on it ever since we lost that game, so we’ll be ready.”