HOWLAND Rebounds were the difference for the Ursuline Fighting Irish on Friday night.
Ursuline outrebounded the Pymatuning Valley Lakers 32-15 en route to a 68-54 victory in a Division III sectional final at Howland High School.
Ursuline's Kevin Jackson turned in a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds while his teammate, Khallid Pierce, snatched 10 rebounds.
While Ursuline's big men did their job on the glass, it was the guards for the Irish who handled most of the scoring. Desmond McElroy led the way for the Irish with a game-high 21 points.
"Their guards are just quick," Pymatuning Valley coach Ryan Fitch said. "We did a decent job at containing them, but I have to give credit to Des (McElroy) because he did a great job at leading them tonight."
McElroy gave credit where credit was due.
"At the beginning of the game our big men got a lot of points," McElroy said. "After that, they defended it really good so we had to shoot it and do our job."
The "we" McElroy was talking about was his teammate Ryan Strollo, who was 3 of 6 from 3-point range and finished the game with 17 points.
The Lakers answered a 9-2 run by the Irish in the first quarter with a 9-2 run of their own, tying the game at 11 midway through the first. Ursuline then closed out the quarter on a 9-0 run to take a 20-11 lead.
PV kept trying to come back, but it seemed whenever the Lakers dipped into the Irish lead, it was either McElroy or Strollo who answered the bell.
"Ryan hit some 3s to keep it open a little bit and Des hit some shots to open it up," Ursuline coach Keith Gunther said.
Quintin Ratliff led the Lakers with 21 points and, seven rebounds. Lakers' guard Tim Cross chipped in 16.
"We tried to tell them that we scouted them three times and Ratliff and Cross were players and they proved that they are," Gunther said. "At times we took them out of what they did well but I don't think we ever completely put it together."
PV played Ursuline even in the second and third quarters. Each team scored 14 points in the second and 15 in the third, putting the score at 49-40 heading into the final frame. The Irish outscored the Lakers 39-25 in the first and fourth quarters combined.
Early in the fourth, the Lakers cut the lead to 51-46 but Ursuline didn't let them get any closer.
"We knew we were going to be in a battle tonight," Fitch said. "We're only five deep and we battled and battled but that's just a good basketball team."
With the victory, Ursuline moves on to face Brookfield in a district semifinal Tuesday night.