Howland bounces Struthers; Grandy retires
By BRIAN DZENIS
John Grandy said if he ever cried or complained because of basketball, it would be time for Struthers to find a new girls basketball coach.
He did neither after his team lost to Howland, 35-24, in a Division II district semifinal but Struthers will have to do just that. He announced his retirement following Monday night’s loss.
“Is it a bad game to retire? No. I’m blessed. Fifteen years as a head coach and I never cried or complained about anything,” Grandy said. “We’ve had over 200 victories. It was all good stuff.
“I’ll miss the kids. There’s great kids in Struthers and I love my team.”
Grnady said he told his wife first — who initially didn’t believe him — then he sent a letter to the Struthers Board of Education and then his players found out a month ago. The outcome of the season had no bearing on his departure.
“It’s a little heartbreaking. He’s been my coach since I was in grade school. He basically taught me everything,” senior Wildcats guard Khaylah Brown said. “It’s been crazy. You’d here him repeat the same things over and over again. I know it’s annoying, but he says it because he loves us.”
“[He’d say] ‘Lift it.’ He’s been saying the same thing in practice since I was little.”
“Lift it” refers to shooting the basketball, something that Struthers (20-4) was didn’t do very well against Howland. The Wildcats made just seven shots from the floor and none of them were three-pointers.
“We’re not a shooting team. We won games this year on defense,’ Grandy said. “They got a few buckets on us where the ball was tipped around and they grabbed it and put it in. Everybody is hustling, doing what they can. It just didn’t work out.”
Not that Howland (17-4) fared much better as the Tigers couldn’t quite establish a double-digit lead until the fourth quarter. Once they did, the Tigers seemed content to slow the game down, shooting only five shots in the final quarter, making two.
“Anytime you get to districts, a 10-point lead is mammoth because we have good foul shooters,” Howland coach John Diehl said. “This is the best foul shooting team I’ve ever coached by far and they can’t ruin that now.”
Howland didn’t get many opportunities at the line — going one for four.
The Wildcats put in a very respectable defensive performance. Trinity McDowell pulled in 12 rebounds and blocked three shots. Her seven points tied Brown and Alexis Bury for the team-high in points.
“They were face-guarding the whole game. They had a lot of conditioning in them, because they could face-guard the whole game and I give them a lot of credit for that,” Howland guard Mackenzie Maze said. “It was really tough to score on them the whole game.”
Alex Ochman led the Tigers with 11 points and Maze and Gabby Hartzell each had 10.
Basketball is a game with winners and losers. The ones who lose have to pick themselves up and move on.
That was Grandy’s final lesson to his players and he’s practicing what he preached.
“It’s time to go on and do other things. I’m a Christian man and I do a lot with my church. My identity is not a coach, it’s a Christian,” Grandy said. “I’ll be doing things with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which I’ve done for years and some other things.
“I still have a lot to do.”