By Greg gulas
As they approach the midway point in their season, head coach Dolph Carroll still feels that his Youngstown Christian Eagles are a work in progress.
After stopping Champion on Saturday night, Carroll is finally seeing the play he has expected of his team since the outset of practice.
Malik Ross scored 17 points while Ryan Houston added 13 as the Eagles defeated the Golden Flashes, 72-62 for their third win in four home games.
“We’re going through some growing pains right now but I’m all right with that because we continue to play hard,” Carroll said. “ Tonight, Champion hit some great shots and we missed a few rotations but that is going to happen.
“It was exciting to see us play as a team because we were tremendously unselfish at both ends of the court. We took a few steps forward, which I liked, but still have a way to go yet in order to be a good team. Our executions and rotations will only get better because you learn a lot from a game like this.”
Houston scored the Eagles’ first seven points of the game as Youngstown Christian (4-5) raced to the early 10-2 advantage, settling for a 14-7 lead after the first eight minutes of play.
The Eagles never trailed in the game, leading from opening tip to the final buzzer.
“We wanted to press at the outset, got a little tired but kept pushing ourselves,” Houston said. “We continue to grow and are slowly becoming a team that has some chemistry.
“Most importantly, we’ve learned over the past several games that when our backs are against the wall that is when you hang tough and you can fight your way through anything.”
A bucket by Darien Townsend at 5:57 of the second quarter then gave the Eagles their largest lead of the half at 22-9.
Champion’s Michael Turner then hit 10 of his game-high 22 points, including two of his game-high five 3-pointers to key an 18-14 run as the Golden Flashes (1-9) pulled to within 36-27 at intermission.
“We’re a young team that never gives up and you saw that in their play tonight. We start two freshmen in Turner and Lucas Nasonti and both are tremendous competitors,” Champion coach Ryan Fitch said. “They are excellent basketball and baseball players and put in a lot of time in both sports as they continue to grow and get better.”
A bucket by the Eagles’ Tymere DuBose at 5:04 of the third quarter game Youngstown Christian a 43-30 advantage, only to see it fall by the wayside when Champion went on a 9-0 ruin to cut the lead to 43-39 at the 3:02 mark of the period.
That was the closest the Golden Flashes got the rest of the way as Ross’s seven points fueled an 11-0 run to close the quarter, pushing the Youngstown Christian lead to 54-39 entering the fourth.
A bucket by DuBose at 3:56 of the final frame gave the Eagles their largest lead at 66-46, but Nasonti’s seven points helped Champion close on a 16-8 run.
DuBose and Ross each hauled in 10 rebounds for the Eagles, who held a 48-31 advantage on the boards.
Turner grabbed seven rebounds for the Golden Flashes.