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Three Trumbull teams remain

March 15, 2009
By ED PUSKAS Tribune Chronicle Sports Editor

Some regional ramblings as three Trumbull County basketball teams turn their attention from celebrating district titles to the next step and perhaps a trip to Columbus:

Harding won its second consecutive district championship with a 52-42 victory over Cleveland St. Ignatius on Saturday afternoon at Warrensville Heights High School. Several hours later, Lakewood St. Edward secured a spot as the Raiders' regional semifinal opponent by beating Parma, 54-51, in a district final at Brecksville.

And so they will meet again, just over a year after the Eagles used a blown call to force overtime and eventually beat the Raiders, 77-75, in a regional final at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center.

Harding-St. Edward II will take place at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night in the same building in which the Raiders were denied a regional championship after a bad call of epic proportions. It is only fitting Harding, which has adopted the motto, ''Unfinished business,'' gets another shot at St. Edward.

If the Raiders beat the Eagles, they could face a familiar opponent in the regional final CSU. Mentor and North Ridgeville will meet in the other semifinal Wednesday night.

Harding beat visiting Mentor, 74-72, in its regular-season finale on Feb. 28. The Cardinals are led by former Girard coach Bob Krizancic.

The third-seeded Vikings were big underdogs to the top-seeded Tigers, based in large part on two regular-season losses to Newton Falls, which entered tournament play 18-2.

LaBrae was an up-and-down 12-8 after the regular season. The Tigers crushed the Vikings, 75-42, at Newton Falls on Jan. 9, but LaBrae played much better in the teams' second meeting, on Feb. 13 in Leavittsburg. The Tigers came from behind to win, 66-51, but the Vikings came away convinced they could not only match up against their backyard rivals, but win a potential third meeting.

''We knew we could beat them if we got to play them again,'' LaBrae sophomore Jacob Jaros said.

Their chance came Friday night.

Kiser had said it would be impossible to stop both 6-foot-11 Marcus Fowler in the paint and cool off Newton Falls' perimeter shooters, but LaBrae did just that.

Fowler had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and he blocked five shots, but it still wasn't his typical game. The Tigers shot poorly as a group, going 17-of-52 from the floor, including 5-of-21 from 3-point range.

Even so, they led at the end of each of the first three quarters. But when LaBrae used an 8-0 fourth-quarter run to seize control, Newton Falls was unable to answer.

The Vikings had an athletic edge against the Tigers, but they'll have no such advantage against Cleveland Central Catholic at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday at the Canton Fieldhouse. Kiser said the Ironmen are athletic and extremely quick.

Despite a more-than-solid season, John F. Kennedy coach Bruce Timko has been the target of criticism, even as the Eagles were making their way through the Division IV tournament at Harding.

Now that the Eagles have ended Windham's five-year run of district titles, it might be time for those with nothing better to do than rip people from the safety of their parents' basements to find a new hobby.

JFK will meet Youngstown Christian in a regional semifinal at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday night at the Canton Fieldhouse. Timko's team lost to Youngstown Christian, 81-67, on Feb. 7, but JFK has gone 8-2 since then, losing only to Harding and Newton Falls.

And as LaBrae showed, regular-season results aren't always indicative of what may be to come in March. If Youngstown Christian allows Nick Brown to take over that game and Brown's teammates provide the necessary complementary contributions, a JFK victory is not out of the realm of possibility.



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