Hot Polar Bears crush Spartans

By John Bassetti


On a night when Boardman could have used some humidity, it got frigidity — like the weather.

Instead, the Massillon Jackson Polar Bears were the hot team in beating Boardman, 77-33, in a Federal League game.

It closely resembled the 80-20 loss that the Polar Bears (12-2, 8-2) handed the Spartans when the teams met on Dec. 17.

Is it a weakness in scoring?

“It’s been our story all year,” Boardman coach Pat Birch said after his team dropped to 2-12, 1-9.

“When we shoot well, it changes who were are because we play better defense and rebound better,” Birch said. “When we don’t shoot well, it has the opposite effect.”

Birch, whose bench conduct is admirable despite the teams’ disparity, attributed the poor offense to Jackson’s defense as well as his squad’s inability to convert.

“They play really good defense,” Birch said. “They’re long and they’re a pretty athletic team, so we’re missing shots because they’re contested, because they’re making us rush. We didn’t convert, either, so it’s a matter of having a bad-shooting night and them making us have a bad-shooting night.”

Boardman’s Preston Stitt had a team-high 11 points, while Aaren Thompkins had seven.

Before the score got lopsided, Thompkins and the rest of the Spartans were anxious to exact a little payback for the 80-20 loss. Thompkins drew a foul for whacking Tyler Dunn as the Jackson player attempted a layup after he stole the ball from Thompkins.

It was one of 20 turnovers suffered by Boardman, which was also spanked on the boards, 39-19.

The 6-foot-1 Thompkins, a junior shooting guard, admitted that the state-ranked Polar Bears are a team that the Spartans would like to emulate.

“We came out to just fight because we wanted to make a statement that we could be the team like that,” Thompkins said. “But they just out-worked us.”

Jackson coach Tim Debevec said that the Polar Bears didn’t reach their scoring average of 80, but Jackson did do better with solid defense by holding an opponent way below the Polar Bears’ average of 53.

Kyle Mottice, Mitch Pugh and Evan Bailey were Jackson’s top scorers with 14, 11 and 10 points, respectively.

“We hope to run and press and get up and down the court,” Debevec said of Jackson’s style.

“Tonight was a tough one because when you get up 30-40 points you quit pressing. I thought we moved the ball well [offensively] and had balanced scoring and it gave us a chance to play 15 guys.”

Debevec said that his staff got to look at two good freshmen in 6-5 Logan Hill and 6-6 Kyle Young as well as getting extended playing time for sophomores Ben Seaman and Jake Palotta.

In the Federal League, the Polar Bears are behind 10-0 Uniontown Lake, to whom Jackson lost by two (58-56). Jackson’s other loss was to Canton McKinley, 82-77, on Dec. 13, but the Polar Bears returned the favor with a 30-point margin of victory against McKinley. Jackson plays Lake next Friday.

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