POLAND Poland finished a 20-2 regular season Friday night with a 48-35 victory over Girard.
There are several ways to describe this version of what has been the most successful area program this century.
Hustlers. Fundamentally sound. Team-oriented. Great work ethic.
But perhaps none is more accurate than overachievers.
The Bulldogs (20-2) matched the win total of the 2007-08 team which finished the regular season 20-0 and advanced to the state tournament.
"There's only been one other team in the history of the school that won 20 regular-season games," said Poland coach Ken Grisdale. "I know we play 22 games now but it's still quite an accomplishment. I'm very proud of this team. It's one of the less-talented teams we've had but they do things right."
Epitomizing this team is George Chammas. He shows very little flash but seldom makes a mistake. At six-foot tall, the junior certainly doesn't pass the visual test as a premier rebounder, but that's just what he's become.
Against the Indians (15-6) he led all players with 11 rebounds, including nine on the offensive end. He also led his team with 13 points and added three assists.
"George did a great job tonight," Grisdale said. "He's probably the best jumper on our team. He's averaging about nine rebounds the last five or six games."
The 'Dogs jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back. Ryan Burke started his first game on senior night and promptly hit two first-quarter 3-pointers as Poland led 13-4 after one. Girard closed the gap to 19-14 by halftime but never got closer. Chammas grabbed five rebounds (four offensive) in the third quarter which ended with the hosts in front 31-20.
Although Chammas is by no means considered a star on this Bulldog team, Girard first-year coach Craig Hannon was very aware of him.
"I knew how well he goes to the offensive glass," Hannon said. "He's great at that."
Chammas admitted he didn't know his stats and added that he doesn't really care about them as long as the team wins.
"One of our main goals coming into the game was that we had to rebound," Chammas said.
The Bulldogs did just that, winning the battle of the boards 40-27. Adding to the Indians' woes was their inability to put the ball in the basket. Girard shot just 25 percent from the field, including 20 percent in the first three quarters.
"I think a lot of that had to do with how Poland pressured us," Hannon said. "We knew we had to execute and we didn't do that."
Nick Andrews added nine points for the winners while Burke and Kyle Dixon had eight apiece. Craig Randall led the Indians with 14 points despite a very subpar shooting night. Evan Standohar grabbed nine rebounds for Girard.
Despite the loss, Hannon is pleased about where his team in heading into the playoffs. The Indians were 9-12 a season ago.
"I'm very excited about our year," he said. "I don't think anyone, other than the players and coaches, thought we'd win this many games."