Diaz provides spark for Poland
Unbeaten Poland pulls away
at Struthers Fieldhouse
By dan hiner
Poland guard Mike Diaz’s role changed over the last year.
The senior’s gone from distributor to scorer and his 19 points on Friday night helped the Bulldogs to a 76-60 win at Struthers.
“Last year we had some guys who could shoot the ball and score the rock,” Diaz said. “This year they’re gone, they graduated and sometimes you got to step up and take on the challenge.”
Diaz developed into another scoring option for the Bulldogs. He found driving lanes when Struthers defended Poland stars Braeden O’Shaughnessy and Dan Kramer. O’Shaughnessy led all scorers with 26 points and eight rebounds. Kramer had 18 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
Poland (16-0, 9-0 All-American Conference White Tier) began the game on an 8-1 run and led 21-8 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs led 39-20 at halftime, but the lead didn’t last long.
The Wildcats went on an 8-2 run midway through the third to climb back into the game.
“I knew the way they shoot the ball — they have five guys who can stroke it on the court — they were gonna get a little run,” Poland head coach Ken Grisdale said. “I’m proud. My kids held tough. If we could just get it back over 10, they were gonna crack because now they were gonna be more aggressive.”
Struthers (9-9, 6-4 AAC White Tier) took advantage of Poland fouls and got to the free-throw line. The Wildcats cut the lead to 56-49 with six minutes left.
But the Wildcats’ 3-point shooting offense couldn’t stop the Poland’s offense in the fourth.
Poland went on an 8-2 run of its own to start the fourth and outscored Struthers 22-13 in the final six minutes.
“I thought we did better in the second half. We sped them up and cut it to seven, but at that point we exerted a lot of energy,” Struthers head coach James Franceschelli said. “It was tough to come back from the deficit.”
Carson Ryan led Struthers with 17 points, seven rebounds and two steals. Teammate Ryan Leonard scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Grisdale said his team needs to improve on “end-of-game situations” before the playoffs. He said his team needs to learn to be patient with the ball and not settle for a 3 early in possessions.
“The only way you can do it is by playing and learning,” Grisdale said. “Hopefully we can take a lot of lessons home tonight.”