BOARDMAN - When taken literally, there isn't much difference in the physical action between a pat on the back and a smack in the rear.
Figuratively speaking the two vary greatly.
Poland coach Ken Grisdale is much more apt to the former than the latter. Tuesday that patting hand dropped south.
During a second-quarter timeout Grisdale ripped into his team. The diatribe continued inside the locker room at halftime of the Division II district semifinal.
Apparently it had a positive effect as the Bulldogs that came out for the second half were a much better version than the ones that were out there in the first two quarters. Poland began the third quarter with a 16-3 run, opened up a 17-point lead, and never looked back en route to a 76-63 victory over Hubbard. The 'Dogs (18-4) advanced to Saturday night's final against the winner of tonight's Cardinal Mooney-Streetsboro contest.
"I was very agitated at halftime," Grisdale said. "I was not upset with our effort; I was upset with our execution. It seemed like we had three guys on the same page and two that weren't all the time. That's a lack of wanting to do what we've worked at, and I take that personally. That's a pride thing. I thought we played a lot better in the third quarter."
Ben Donlow and Niko Fatimus, whom the Eagles seemed to have no answer for all night, carried Poland in the frame. Each scored eight points in the quarter, one more than the entire Hubbard team. The Bulldogs entered the final quarter with a 61-42 lead after a 22-7 period.
Donlow led all players with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Fatimus added 18 and David White chipped in 10 points and six boards for the winners.
The 6-foot-4 Donlow made a habit throughout the night of beating defenders off the dribble and driving strong to the basket.
"He has pretty good vision he's difficult to stop when he wants to go to the basket," Grisdale said.
Added Hubbard coach Rick Fox: "One of our goals was to get backside help on him. A couple of times we could have stepped in for a charge but didn't do it."
Donlow went to work early, scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds in the opening quarter. Eagle sophomore Mike Lopuchovsky had eight points in the frame, which ended with the Bulldogs in front 19-18. Chase Myers scored seven of his nine points in the second quarter for Hubbard (15-8) but his team still trailed at intermission, 39-35.
Poland was relentless on defense in beginning the third quarter with the aforementioned run. Fatimus and Donlow had 14 of the 16 points in the spurt with Luke Wollet getting the other two. The Bulldogs had zero turnovers in the period compared to seven for Hubbard. In the middle two quarters the miscues were 13-2 in favor of Poland.
"We can't have lazy passes and we had to take advantage of the situations," Fox said. "I think we had a lot of lazy passes in the third quarter."
The Eagles began the final quarter with an 8-2 run to get within 13 points but could get no closer the rest of the way.
Kurtis Drummond led the winners with 20 points while Lopuchovsky added 16 points and six rebounds.
Poland 76, Hubbard 63
3-POINT GOALS: P 6-19 (N. Fatimus 4, Donlow, L. Fatimus); H 3-9 (Lopuchovsky, Duvall, Groscost). REBOUNDS: P 34 (Donlow 16); H 27 (Lopuchovsky 6). ASSISTS: P 8 (Wollet 2); H 13 (Hopkinson 6).