JFK’s road ends in regional final
By Brian Dzenis
Warren JFK couldn’t quite complete a miracle comeback to win a Division IV regional title.
The Eagles trailed by as many as 15 points before falling 67-64 to Lutheran East on Friday night at the Canton Fieldhouse.
Although the Eagles trailed by single digits to start the fourth quarter, the Falcons’ press made it hard to envision a truly competitive game, let alone a rally that came down to Byron Taylor’s missed 3-point shot as time ran down.
The Eagles never lost sight of the prize.
“We’re competitors and we’re never going to hang our head. We’re never going to say ‘this one must be over,’” JFK guard Justin Bofenkamp said. “We kept pushing and pushing.”
Lutheran East got ahead by as many as 11 points in the third quarter before the Eagles (20-8) began to mount a serious threat to the lead. Taylor and Antonio McQueen had four and six points in the first half, respectively, but they began to get hot.
The Eagles started to ask the serious questions of the Falcons near the end of the third. Taylor hit a 3 to close out the third at 46-40 in favor of the Falcons. McQueen came alive in the fourth, scoring 10 points and pulling down six rebounds during that final charge. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
“After I got my first dunk, they figured out they had to guard me at all times. If they were to leave me wide open, I’ll get the ball to the rim any chance I get,” McQueen said. “They tried to get in my head and I was just finding ways to get open and see if they aren’t paying attention to where I am and take advantage.”
Taylor finished the game with 16 points and Bofenkamp was steady for the duration of the contest with a team-high 23 points.
Lutheran East struggled at the foul line in the final two minutes — going 6 of 12 to give Warren JFK an opening. The Falcons had a chance to bury the dagger with 12 seconds left, but couldn’t do it because of such poor foul shooting.
With Lutheran East leading 66-64, Warren JFK’s Evan Boyd handed the Falcons a gift. Boyd, also a running back and linebacker for the Eagles’ football team — tackled Lutheran East’s Tyler Powell for an intentional foul.
Powell missed both free, but the Falcons kept possession and on the next round of free throws, Jordan Burge split two.
The Eagles got the ball with 10 seconds left with no timeouts down by three. Taylor’s attempt from beyond the arc clanged off the rim.
Lutheran East’s press put Warren JFK out of sorts in the first half, forcing 12 turnovers as the Falcons forged a 32-23 lead at the break.
“I made a choice to try and take away the paint early and it made us a little bit passive defensively rather than being our aggressive self,” Warren JFK coach Mark Komlanc said. “I’ll chalk that up to being a first-year head coach. We got back in the game playing the way we played all year.
“I tried to do something different and that was my fault and it’s the only regret I have in this game.”
Maurico Tate led the Falcons with 19 points. Travis Sanders added 15 and Burge scored 10.
Friday’s loss marks the farthest the Eagles have gone in the postseason since 1985.
“I guess it puts us as one of the top teams at Kennedy. We would have liked a lot more,” Bofenkamp said. “You can’t consider it an accomplishment. It’s something you’ll look back on and say it’s good, but right now you’re not too excited about it.”