Spartans survive

Defense helps Boardman hold off Tigers

Staff photo / Brian Yauger -- Boardman forward Trey DePietro, middle, is stopped by Howland’s David Manios (22) on Tuesday in Howland. DePietro scored eight points, all of which came in the second half of the Spartans’ 52-48 victory.

HOWLAND — Despite both teams having plenty of scoring talent on their rosters, baskets were hard to come by for the majority of Tuesday’s game.

Howland and Boardman laid the defensive pressure on thick.

When the dust settled, it was Boardman who won the scrappy affair, beating the Tigers, 52-48.

“It was an intense game — Howland brings it,” Spartans coach Pat Birch said. “These guys were scrapping and playing really hard tonight. That (Anthony) Massucci’s a tough cover. We knew that coming in, and even when you give the kid a lot of attention, he still finds a way to get the ball in the basket, and that’s a credit to him.”

In an aggressive game, strong play in the paint was important.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger -- Boardman senior Ethan Andersen, center, looks for an open teammate while being smothered by Jake Gazdik, right, and Joey DeSalvo of Howland on Tuesday.

Luckily for the Spartans, having size in the post with Trey DePietro and Ethan Andersen was a factor. Strong play from the guards put Boardman over the edge with Seth Cervelli leading the Spartans with 11 points.

“We’ve got two bigs down there, and we need to use them, but we need our guards to step up and make some plays, and they did,” Birch said. “We had some shots. Ben Alvarico, Seth Cervilli and D.J. Evans, those guys came to play and had some timely baskets, and as soon as that happens, the paint opens up.”

Boardman, who has been in more than one close game this year, is grateful for any opportunity to experience something that it can’t easily reproduce in practice.

“It’s hard to replicate that in practice, where you get a lead and you know you’ve got to execute and the team’s coming at you and they’re being physical and bumping you,” Birch said. “Every moment is a learning moment, and our guys will learn from this. We’ve been in some close games this year, and we’ve been able to win most of them, which is good.”

Howland, which only has four games under its belt, has steadily improved, and Birch is expecting a tougher matchup when the teams meet again later in the month.

“That team’s just going to keep getting better,” Birch said. “They’ve been dealt a tough hand with COVID and barely had any practices and all these games. I know another month from now they’re gonna be a really good, tough basketball team. Our guys found a way to win. We played some of our best basketball in the third and early fourth quarter to build that lead. We were sharing it. We’ve got a nice flow to the game and just kind of held on.”

The Tiger offense ran through Massucci, who tallied 27 points on the night. Coming into the year, defense was a worry for Howland coach Dan Bubon, but he’s pleased with what he’s seen thus far. It’s just a matter of getting the offense into a rhythm going forward.

“When you watched the two teams play offense, you can tell which team was playing for two months and which team was playing for two-and-a-half weeks,” Bubon said. “When we get our offense together, I like where we’re gonna be. … We just need more time offensively to get into some kind of rhythm.”

The Tigers (1-3) have a second back-to-back this week when they face Warren G. Harding and Marlington on Friday and Saturday.

Boardman hosts Fitch on Friday in their first league contest of the season.


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