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Poland wins OT thriller over Springfield

Bulldogs edge backyard rival Springfield 42-41

Correspondent photo / Lowell Spencer Springfield’s Karigan Mullen (14) dribbles around Poland’s Avery Jakobovic as Ava Vecchione (22) trails the play during Sprinfield’s game at Poland on Monday.

POLAND — The Poland Bulldogs are trying to find themselves following the graduation of four starters and their top bench player from last year.

They found out a lot about themselves in a hard-fought 42-41 overtime victory over the Springfield Tigers in a tough rivalry game Monday night.

“Springfield’s our rivals because of how close we are to them. We have become very confident playing them and comfortable. We play them in soccer and other sports, so it is always an intense game when we play them,” Bulldogs senior forward Leanne Williams said.

“We have a lot of new faces popping in and they are inexperienced,” Bulldogs Nick Blanch said. “They try, and I love coaching this team. They work so hard, but I wish they could play at a more comfortable pace.”

With the victory, the Bulldogs improved to 2-1 overall on the season. However, it wasn’t necessarily without some bumps in the road in a game that had the atmosphere of a postseason game.

“We said at halftime (that) this was our district final,” Tigers head coach John Matisi said. “We could have played weaker competition tonight, and we wouldn’t have found out anything about ourselves. That is why we play these games — to find out what we have in us.”

“We scheduled them for a reason,” Blanch added. “I love backyard rivalries, and they are an excellent program. Right now, our kids are working hard, but I think we are at the same kind of level.”

The largest lead in the contest was six points by the Bulldogs, which occurred midway through the overtime period. But the Tigers were unfazed by the deficit as they finished the game with a 7-2 run to fall just a point shy.

The Tigers had an opportunity with just 1.2 seconds remaining in regulation when the Bulldogs turned the ball over under their own basket. However, the Tigers committed a line violation, allowing the Bulldogs the opportunity to win in dramatic fashion. Bulldogs senior Mary Brant received the pass and launched a shot that was offline, sending the contest into the extra session.

“We were trying to get an open layup and draw a foul to get to the free throw line. With that kind of pressure in this type of game, a high school player can make a mistake. We had a little fumble,” Williams said.

Three consecutive baskets by Brant, Williams and Kylee Hudran powered the Dogs to a 6-0 run to start the overtime period, staking them to a 40-34 lead with just over two minutes remaining in the stanza. A jumper by Sophia Generalovich at 1:35 left gave the Bulldogs a 42-36 lead, but a three by the Tigers Mariana Tuscano at 1:17 made it 42-39.

Tigers junior center Jameeka Brungard added a basket in the paint with just 24 seconds remaining to make it 42-41. However, the Tigers would turn the ball over in the final seconds to fall just short in their comeback effort.

The Tigers led the contest 7-5 after the first quarter, however, at the 1:33 mark of the second period, Avery Jakubovic nailed a three from the top of the key to give the Bulldogs a 14-11 advantage. They would carry that slim three-point lead into the halftime locker rooms.

“It gives us confidence, but it is tough for the girls who have been working on their shots and then you get to the game and things are not falling for you. Individually, some girls are frustrated, and they want more, and I can appreciate that. So, we will try to build them up,” Blanch said.

The game opened up much more in the second half as Karigan Mullen nailed a three from the right corner to power the Tigers to a three-point, 23-20 lead at the 3:56 mark of the frame. But consecutive baskets by Williams gave Poland a 26-23 lead at the end of the third quarter.

“We have guards in Kara and Mariana, that they might not make them on a Thursday night on the road and were up by twenty. But if we are in a game, I feel that every one of their shots are going in. They are big game players,” Matisi said.

A basket by Elliana Thompson to start the fourth quarter propelled the Dogs to a five-point, 28-23 lead with just under seven minutes remaining in regulation. But the Tigers battled back with a 7-2 run to tie the game at 30-30 by the 3:52 mark of the frame. The Bulldogs took the lead twice, and the Tigers tied the contest twice in the final 3:52 of regulation.

“We have lost two games by three points to two teams that are tracking to be pretty good this year. So, we have league play starting now, and I think it is going to be a different world now for us,” Matisi said.

The Tigers will begin league play on Thursday night when they travel to Jackson-Milton in their next game. The Bulldogs face another neighboring rival in their next game when they host the Boardman Spartans on Saturday afternoon.

sports@vindy.com

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