WARREN - John F. Kennedy took an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of its game Friday night against Trinity.
The Eagles nearly blew the advantage as Trinity got within two points, but behind a spark by Raitwann Gaston they were able to withstand the rally for a 63-56 victory, the school's first in the North Coast League.
"If you look at the balance of scoring, tonight we had the best balance we've had all year," Kennedy coach Shawn Pompelia said. "You look at what Rai did tonight, Brenden (Cox), (Robert) Seger, (Chandler) Diles, they all played together. And Dom (Dominic Naples) shared the basketball tonight better than I've ever seen him."
Coach Pompelia talks about JFK's win Friday night
It was Kennedy's first league win since 2009 in the Steel Valley Conference.
"This league is unbelievable. It is one of the best basketball leagues I've ever seen," Pompelia said. "I can't believe we're in it, but we are and we're going to turn this into a positive. We're going to work hard every night to get a win."
After the Trojans had pulled within 49-47 with 4:33 left, Gaston made sure his team would not lose the lead. On consecutive possessions, he scored on a breakaway dunk, followed with a hook in the lane, then tipped a pass to Diles for another basket. The score was 55-47 with 3:17 to play and Trinity would not get closer than four points the rest of the way.
"We had a lack of energy at practice and I think that they weren't ready for the effort that they needed on the road," Trinity coach Jim Wallish said. "We were not ready and they were ready to play. They were making they shots; we were not making our shots. We made a good run late, but you can't let a good team get ahead of you."
Gaston led Kennedy (3-5, 1-2) with 19 points in the victory.
"We came in at halftime and we talked about cutting down on turnovers and working the ball and moving it," Gaston said. "I tried to get my assist game up, put my teammates in the game. They gave it back and I scored."
Gaston helped push the Eagles to an early advantage. After the Trojans pulled within 20-17, he scored two straight baskets to end the first half, then scored again to open the third quarter. Seger followed with another score for a 28-17 lead.
After the Eagles had taken a 43-32 lead into the fourth quarter, Drew Fecko led the comeback for Trinity (5-3, 0-3). He scored to open the final period, then had consecutive baskets to make the score 45-40 before Alex Simun completed a three-point play to pull the Trojans within four.
Fecko led all players with 21 points but missed several shots later in the quarter and was unable to complete the rally.
"Drew's been very good this year for us," Wallish said. "He's rebounded the ball, he's scored well. He's a competitor and he has a lot of heart. He gets real frustrated when we start to lose. Without a doubt, we go as he goes. The team rallied around him. We made a little run but obviously not enough of one."
Seger scored 16 points for Kennedy. Naples had 11 and Diles put in 10.