Struthers wins with 19-0 second-quarter run
Ryan, Carbon help Wildcats pull away from Leopards
By Charles Grove
Referencing the old adage “When it rains, it pours,” Liberty head coach Chris Kohl said his team “was in a hurricane” as Struthers blew open what was a close game early with long runs en route to a 69-52 win.
Trailing 18-16 after a first quarter that saw eight lead changes, the Wildcats (15-7, 8-4 AAC White) went on a 19-0 run in the second quarter. The only bright spot of the period was Kevin Hawn’s 3-pointer in the final minute or the Leopards (4-16, 3-8 AAC Blue) would’ve been shut out.
“We couldn’t drop one into the ocean,” Kohl said. “We played a great first quarter, the kids did everything we asked of them and then it just disappeared. It was a terrible shooting night.”
Carson Ryan led Struthers with 14 points and Andrew Carbon had 13. A.J. Musolino and Jaret Jacubec each had 12 in the win.
Liberty was led by Dra Rushton’s 12 points while Andrew Bowers finished with 11.
The halftime break did little to slow Struthers’ momentum. Carbon hit back-to-back 3-pointers while Musolino had a pair of layups as the Wildcats opened the third quarter with a 12-1 run.
Struthers showed off its ability to beat Liberty off the dribble and kick out to the open man for 3-pointers. The Wildcats hit 12 from beyond the arc.
“That’s the type of team we are,” Struthers head coach Jimmy Franceschelli said. “We’re going to shoot a ton of 3’s or we’re going to get layups. We’re not going to shoot a lot of 15-footers.”
Franceschelli also said his team did a solid job defensively. Struthers switched to a zone during the second quarter, and Liberty’s outside shooting couldn’t crack it. That inability allowed the Wildcats to get out and run in transition. Liberty shot just 32 percent overall.
“For us it’s about buckling down on defense,” Franceschelli said. “I thought we did a great job boxing out and getting the ball out in transition.
“We wanted to keep the momentum going and to continue to get stops because when we were pushing the able we were pretty good tonight.”
Despite the long runs, it wasn’t a complete walk in the park for Struthers. Sloppy play in the fourth quarter allowed the Leopards to cut into the lead, keeping fans from heading for the exits prematurely.
“We got it down to 13 with the ball and then we turned it over,” Kohl said. “It’s kind of been our MO all year long. We just lost our focus.
“It was the same thing with LaBrae. We had it at 32-30 and then the next time I looked up at the clock we were down 14 points.”
Struthers has some time off to fix some things before gearing up for postseason play. The Wildcats will play the winner of Salem and Lakeview in a sectional final on March 3.
“We’ve got to work on the little things like valuing the basketball,” Franceschelli said. “We’re going to get better at that, though.”
The Leopards still play twice before the tournament where they’ll play Garrettsville Garfield in a sectional semifinal as they try to get hot at the right time.
“If we can get Garrettsville then we have a chance to play Brookfield, who we split this year so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for the second season,” Kohl said.