POLAND - If the world ended yesterday, as the Mayan calendar predicted, then the rest of this story is pointless.
Since the prophecies did not provide a specific time for the globe's demise, one got the sense that Jacob Wolfe wasn't going to leave anything to chance. He wanted to make sure he put the Howland Tigers away early.
Taking advantage of two Howland starters on the bench for the entire first quarter (a disciplinary action by coach Bill Bogan), the Poland junior scored 20 points, had four steals and pulled down three rebounds in the opening eight minutes. When the dust had cleared, the Bulldogs had a 27-8 lead paving the way for an easy 69-50 victory.
Wolfe was held to five points the rest of the way. But, as Bogan said, "the damage was already done."
The Bulldogs improved to 5-0 and 1-0 in the All-American Conference, American Division while Howland dropped to 1-6, 1-1.
Poland coach Ken Grisdale said when Howland went back to full strength it made a concerted effort to deny the 6-foot-4 Wolfe the ball in the blocks.
"In the second quarter we became a little cautious trying to get the ball in there," Grisdale said. "(Brendan) Cope is a really good athlete. I think we threw it down low once and he tipped it then we went away from it. Other things opened up though and we worked the ball and used the clock."
Trying to garner enough energy to climb out of a hole that big is difficult enough against a team that does not have a good bench. Doing it against the Bulldogs, who rotate 11 players, is nearly impossible. Eleven different players scored for Poland.
"We have a bunch of role players," Grisdale said. "Wolfe is obviously our best player. We have a lot of players who can do certain things well but not a lot who can do several things well."
Howland's subpar start to the season has certainly been unexpected. According to Bogan, the Tigers returned players who combined to average 60 points per game last year.
"As I said after our last game, our seniors have to become seniors," Bogan said. "We had three seniors who were late to the bus before the game and that altered our lineup. We didn't have a great summer. We're just now rounding into shape health-wise. I'm hoping we can take this break and treat it like our November."
Howland is off until December 28, when it hosts Canfield.
Aside from Wolfe, Poland's early lead came from the Tigers' inability to handle pressure. The Bulldogs forced 10 turnovers in the opening period. Poland did not turn the ball over in the first or third quarters. The 'Dogs led 42-19 at half and 54-29 after three quarters.
John-Mark Weisman paced Howland with 21 points, including five 3-pointers.
Grisdale said if the world did end, he couldn't think of a better way to exit.
"It's a good way to go out. We won, my daughter is here, my wife was just in here and my mom and dad stopped in."