Poland clinches crown outright
Bulldogs avenge their only defeat
By Greg Gulas
Last year, a season-ending loss to Ashtabula Edgewood cost the Poland High School boys basketball team the outright All-American Conference White Tier championship.
Their only loss this season also was to the Warriors, 69-61 on Feb. 9.
Friday was payback time for the Bulldogs.
Braeden O’Shaughnessy scored a game-high 22 points, Dan Kramer registered the game’s only double-double (19 points and 11 rebounds) and Brandon Barringer added 10 markers to lead Poland to a 56-43 victory.
It was the Bulldogs’ fifth league title over the past six seasons.
“We talked all week that we wanted this title all to ourselves,” O’Shaughnessy said. “For selfish reasons, we didn’t want to share it this year it with anyone.
With the Bulldogs holding a narrow 42-39 lead, Poland took over the last 3:41 of the game by going on a 12-0 run, forced eight turnovers and registered eight steals to open a 54-39 advantage and coast the last 44 seconds to the title.
“In the first half, we didn’t push the ball nor did we run when we had the opportunity,” O’Shaughnessy said. “ We’re at our best when we’re running and in transition.
“In the fourth quarter, we had some momentum and were able to build a lead. That’s when Coach [Ken] Grisdale told us if we can get some steals and force some turnovers, then the title would be ours.”
Kramer scored nine of the Bulldogs’ first 11 point.
“In the fourth quarter, we wanted to hold the ball in order to play offense as much as possible,” Kramer said. “We didn’t forget what happened to us last year, so this is a really happy time for all of us.”
Poland (21-1, 11-1 AAC White Tier) raced to the early 9-4 advantage, but a 7-2 run by the Warriors (19-3, 9-3) ended the quarter with an 11-11 deadlock.
O’Shaughnessy’s initial triple at 5:14 of the second frame staked Poland to an 18-13 lead, but Hayden Kanicki’s third triple of the opening half pulled Edgewood to within 22-21 at the intermission.
“We didn’t focus on last year, but we did focus on two weeks ago because we didn’t play our best the first time we faced them,” Grisdale said. “Our kids are prideful and they looked forward to the opportunity to play them tonight.”
With O’Shaughnessy and Kramer combining to score all but 15 of Poland’s 56 points, Grisdale was understandably happy as he talked about their effort.
“I simply do not have the words right now to describe Braeden and Dan, as well everyone else’s effort tonight,” Grisdale said. “They shoulder the pressure, but have other teammates that do the dirty work in order to make them better players.”
A Barringer bucket in the lane with 26 seconds remaining the Bulldogs forge a 38-30 lead heading to the final period.
O’Shaughnessy’s nine points in the final period helped secure Poland’s fourth consecutive win as they remained undefeated in 11 regular season home games.
Poland held a 27-23 rebound margin.