Balanced Warren JFK defeats Ursuline
By Brian Dzenis
In back-to-back games, the Warren JFK boys basketball team has defeated two reigning district champions.
The latest pelt for the Eagles is Ursuline’s, whom they defeated 70-59 Tuesday night. The other champion to fall to JFK (3-1) was St. Thomas Aquinas, 78-67, last Friday during what has now become a three-game winning streak.
Things are moving fast for first-year head coach Mark Komlanc.
“We’re growing up a lot faster. I’ll be completely honest,” Komlanc said. “That’s a good thing and we just need to learn how to handle it. People are starting to take notice and it’s a little quicker than I hoped for.”
Komlanc thought his team wouldn’t hit its stride until mid-January because of the football players on his team being late to integrate with the rest of the team due to their state championship run. JFK still showed some ebb with its flow, but the early returns are promising.
Take Tuesday night, the Eagles made mincemeat of the Irish defense in the opening quarter by starting out with an 18-7 run.
“We saw the openings that we wanted. We took what was given to us,” JFK guard Byron Taylor said. “We were told to push the ball and just play hard.”
The Irish were able to cut the deficit to just three points by the end of that quarter and that was the story of the night. The Eagles — poised to turn the game into a rout — instead managed to keep Ursuline (4-3) at arm’s length.
Irish coach Keith Gunther didn’t like what he saw with his team coming off a 60-57 victory against Lutheran East on Sunday.
“I thought we came out and took them lightly. I thought we came out nonchalant. I thought we gave them shots,” Gunther said. “Here’s the issue: When you let a good team get their confidence going and you keep letting them score buckets, I thought their confidence went through the roof and they played off that the rest of the game.”
The Eagles entered the second half with a 12-point lead and put together a 15-2 run. JFK showed why it has these wins over teams with postseason accolades last season. The Eagles spread the ball around. They’re quick to attack and against Ursuline, they had the size advantage at four of the five spots on the floor.
The balanced effort is reflected in the box score. Justin Bofenkamp was the leading scorer with 15 points. Hyland Burton made three 3-pointers in a 14-point night. Taylor and Nate Woods each had 13 points and Antonio McQueen was the post threat with 12 points, including a few dunks.
Anthony Howell led Ursuline with 30 points.
“The more we would swing the ball, it just kept coming back my way in every open spot,” Taylor said. “Me and my teammates, we’re looking around and creating for each other.”
As good as that run was, Ursuline still managed to keep the game interesting, getting the deficit down to nine points with three minutes left.
“The run at the beginning of the second half was really good and we turned [Ursuline] over a little bit and I want them to keep it simple and stay in attack mode and the problem is when we’re in attack mode, we miss easy layups,” Komlanc said. “I think we got a little tired and they’re physical and they’re tough.”
With both teams in the bonus in the final minutes, JFK maintained its lead at the foul line.