WARREN - It had the feeling of a turning point in the season for Maplewood Rockets coach Nathan Kish.
For John F. Kennedy Eagles coach Shawn Pompelia it felt more like a time to make a point to the players.
The Rockets played with more consistency and determination Friday night in their 49-46 non-conference win at Gillen Gymnasium. Maplewood trailed most of the way before assuming the lead early in the fourth quarter and holding off a late run by the Eagles.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Maplewood’s Ethan Obradovich (40) rolls a shot off his fingers as John F. Kennedy’s Robert Seger, left, and Dominic Naples, right, defend during the second quarter. Maplewood won, 49-46.
"I'm more excited for the kids than anything," Kish said. "We started off (the season) rocky. They could have quit, but they didn't. They're working harder than they did then. They're buying in. It was a very good win against a team that plays in a tough conference. Sometimes Kennedy's record is deceiving. They're going to be in the mix in the district tournament, so it was a good win for us."
The loss left the Eagles with a 3-4 record and had Pompelia shaking his head. He saw improvement in JFK's win over Holy Name a week earlier. Something went wrong during the Christmas break.
"We're building momentum. We beat a very good Holy Name, D-II school last Friday, and tonight we come out with no intensity," Pompelia said. "We practiced last night, and our practice was absolutely horrible.
"In my gut I knew tonight wasn't going to be a great outcome if we continued to play the way we practiced last night. It showed tonight. Take nothing away from Maplewood. They played hard. They wanted this game. They (the Eagles) showed a lack of intensity throughout our system, and that's what upsets me."
JFK had a chance to tie the score after calling a timeout with 11.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Sophomore guard Preston Caparanis was forced to put up a 3-point shot as time was about to expire. Luke Urchek got a hand on the shot to secure the win for the 5-4 Rockets.
"It's a tough place to play here at Kennedy," Urchek said. "They're a really good team. We came out a little flat. We stayed into it and had a good night."
A three-point play by Urchek at the outset of the fourth period gave the Rockets a 34-33 lead. JFK's A.J. Grant answered with a three-point play to give the Eagles a 36-34 advantage.
Nate Spitler then made a 3-point shot as the Rockets took the lead for good at 37-36. Maplewood led by as many as five points down the stretch but wasn't able to pull away. The Rockets had a chance to stretch their lead to more than five points, but a five-second call on an inbounds pass returned possession to the Eagles, who promptly scored on a drive by Robert Seger
Ethan O'Bradovich followed with a big fielder for the Rockets.
"We have to get better at those things," Kish said of the five-second turnover. "Those are thing we'll work on in practice so when the situation comes we can take care of business right away instead of struggling for the win."
The Eagles led 16-11 after the opening period. They led 25-22 at halftime and 33-31 through three quarters.
Urchek led the Rockets in scoring with 17 points, including 5-of-5 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. O'Bradovich added 11.
Dominic Naples of JFK led all scorers with 19 points, including 15 in the first half. Naples was held scoreless in the final quarter.
"Naples carried us probably for the first half," Pompelia said. "We didn't have guys as engaged on the offensive end to make a difference. When we played Holy Name, we had guys engaged in the offense scoring, making great shots and rebounding. Tonight they didn't show up."
JFK is at Pymatuning Valley Wednesday. Maplewood hosts Grand Valley Friday.