Fast start propels Poland past West Branch
The Bulldogs have won 16 straight.
By Greg Gulas
The Poland High boys basketball team is going into tournament play riding high.
After posting an 81-55 decision over West Branch on Monday in the regular-season finale, the Bulldogs extended their winning streak to 16.
Jacob Wolfe had a game-high 24 points to pace Poland (20-2), who will host the winner of Wednesday’s Struthers-West Branch game on Saturday in the Division II sectional final.
“Tonight, we learned that we are back,” Wolfe said. “The last couple of games we struggled and started slow, which allowed opponents to hang around deep into the game.
Tonight, West Branch challenged us and we played lights out,” Wolfe said. “We seemed to fix a few of the things that needed tweaking.”
Poland coach Ken Grisdale isn’t concerned about what team his Bulldogs will play next as much as he is about being ready to play.
“I’m more worried about us doing what we need to do in order to be ready,” Grisdale said. “Our second quarter tonight was as good as any that we have played and I really felt like we had all the pieces of the puzzle working together.
“I feel better about getting this game in because now it is one-and-done the rest of the way,” Grisdale said.
Nick Gajdos scored eight points and Wolfe seven as Poland built a 22-12 lead in the first quarter.
Ten points by Wolfe and four each from Steven Andrews and Tate Duarte keyed a 21-7 run for the Bulldogs in the second quarter.
“They just don’t have very many weaknesses,” Warriors coach Lou Sellaroli said. “I thought that our effort was strong and that really pleased me.
“However, you also have to make shots or you are going to dig a hole for yourself, especially against a good team like Poland,” Sellaroli said. “When they make a run, it’s next to impossible to play catch-up with them.”
Poland improved to 11-1 at home. Danny Black scored 10 points.
“Jacob [Wolfe] is a three-year starter who has done a great job for us all season,” Grisdale said. “When your seniors are unselfish, that rubs off on everyone else and you have the making of a pretty good team.”
Three buckets from beyond the arc by Dustin Greenawalt and a 3-pointer by Kyle Ziegler helped West Branch (6-16) pull to within 54-39 in the third quarter.
But Poland closed the quarter with a 9-0.
Poland’s Jake Burns scored nine points in the fourth quarter.
Kip DeShields scored a team-high 16 points for West Branch, which has split its last six games. Dustin Greenawalt scored 11.