LORDSTOWN - Having scouted Lordstown for five weeks prior to Tuesday night's matchup, Windham coach Marty Hill understood that his team couldn't rest on a 12-point first-quarter lead.
Hill's prediction was correct, but his Bombers still persevered, holding off multiple Lordstown comebacks en route to a 64-59 win in an interdivisional Northeastern Athletic Conference game.
"We told the kids that sometimes when you start out a game like that, it makes it look like it's going to be easy," Hill said. "We knew it wasn't going to be easy. The kids maybe thought it was going to be easy, but we never thought that at all.
"We weren't surprised. We thought talent-wise, this was one of the better teams in the league. I think all the coaches know that."
The Bombers (11-5, 8-2 NAC, Stars Division) used an up-tempo pace in the first quarter in order to create the lead, but the Red Devils (10-6, 7-3 NAC, Stripes) slowed the game down and managed to claw back to within three points following a Preston Sutton 3-pointer at the 3:34 mark in the second period.
Windham's Jonah Konzen put a stop to that comeback attempt as the senior scored six points in a span of 1 minute, 3 seconds to spark an 8-2 Windham run to end the quarter. He scored all of those points in the paint, with two field goals off putback opportunities. The 6-foot-4 forward came off the bench, as has been his customary roll since missing a few games in the middle of the season, and Hill said Konzen adds a half-court dimension to the team in contrast to the starting five's run-and-gun style.
Konzen finished with a team-high 16 points and eight rebounds.
"Just do what our normal gameplan is," Konzen said of what he tried to do coming off the bench. "Keep moving the ball, keep the tempo up, keep our composure and do what I had to do - rebound, score."
In the second half, two senior guards - Jimmy Cross and Jake Jones - kept Lordstown in the game and gave the team multiple opportunities to tie or take a lead for the first time in the game.
Scoring a combined 13 points in the third, they sparked an 11-5 run to start the third that ended when Cross drove for a layup with 3:46 remaining to make it, 39-38, in favor of the Bombers. A Konzen putback on the next possession pushed the lead back to three, and the Bombers escaped that precarious situation. Then, in the fourth, they combined for another 12 points, including a stretch of six straight that ended with a pair of Cross free throws to close Windham's lead to 53-50. The Bombers proceeded to go on a 10-2 run over the next 3 minutes to close out the game, however.
Cross totaled a game-high 18 points, while Jones had 17.
Despite having attempts late to pull off a win, Lordstown coach Brian Force pointed to the struggles in the first quarter, where the Red Devils committed seven turnovers, as the difference between the two teams.
"I don't think we came to play really," Force said. "I don't think we were really prepared for how hard they pushed the ball, and they were able to get out on us quick and get a lot of easy buckets early. Our kids looked a little shellshocked to me.
"They pounded us in that first quarter, and that was the difference in the game."
As for Windham, the win keeps the team in the hunt for the NAC, Stars Division title. Hill said the team takes every NAC game seriously, as any one loss could hand the title to Maplewood, which leads Windham by one game.
"We have two league losses, and Maplewood only has one," Hill said. "So, we can't afford to lose any game - all league games are important for us."