Warriors extend Dragons’ skid to 9
By Steve Ruman
With impending bad weather set to move into the Mahoning Valley over the weekend, tonight’s scheduled All-American Conference game between Niles and Edgewood was bumped up one day, much to the delight of Warriors coach John Bowler.
“We hadn’t played for over a week, and we like to stay on a routine,” Bowler said. “If we kept the game scheduled for [tonight], it probably gets canceled and now we’re looking at a long layoff and a Friday-Saturday scenario down the road.
“We were anxious to get back on the court.”
Indeed, Edgewood looked eager and ready to go from start to finish in an 84-52 road win over the Red Dragons.
The Warriors (8-1, 3-1) raced out to a 15-0 lead and coasted to their fifth straight win. Niles (1-9, 0-5), which won its season-opener, has now lost nine straight.
Hayden Kanicki led Edgewood with 27 points, including seven 3-pointers. Jacob Zappitelli scored 19 for the Warriors, including four shots from beyond the arc, while Tye Rood — the lone senior on the roster — chipped in with 13 points.
Niles was paced by junior Cyler Kane-Johnson, who scored a game-high 30.
Backed by a strong inside presence, along with hot shooting from Kanicki and Zappitelli, Edgewood built a 17-7 lead after one quarter, and led 37-17 at the break.
Niles missed its first 11 shots, and was just 18 of 68 from the field for the night.
“We simply cannot afford to fall behind early, and that’s what we’ve been doing during this bad stretch,” said Niles coach Ron Price. “We have to play better defense and we have to rebound.
“Edgewood is as good as any team we’ve seen. They are very well-balanced. They were dialed in from long range, and their size was giving us trouble all game long. The combination of some really good shooters and a good inside game make them a really tough team to defend.”
A year ago, Edgewood went 19-5 and shared the AAC White Tier title with Poland. That team was paced by 6-foot-7 point guard Marcus Ernst, who is now playing at Malone College. Despite losing Ernst and his nearly 25 points per game, the Warriors haven’t missed a beat.
“Last year, we relied heavily on Marcus,” Bowler said. “This year, we have to spread things around a bit more, but it has worked. On any given night, we have a couple of guys who can put up some big numbers. And our length has been a big factor.
“Our defense is still a work in progress, but I like the look of this team.”
Meanwhile, Price will continue to search for answers for a team which is reeling, and which is without standout Corbin Foy, who is expected to miss the remainder of the season with an injury.
“We lost about 20 points with him not in the lineup, and we lose leadership,” Price said. “We’ve been facing some distractions, and we just have to work through them.
“I told our guys that next week is a new beginning. We have the second half of the season and the tournament ahead of us. If we can turn things around, no one is going to remember these games.”
Niles hosts Jefferson on Tuesday. Edgewood hosts Struthers the same night.