End of the road

JFK’s season over after close loss to Lutheran East

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo JFK's Justin Bofenkamp looks up after the Eagles’ 67-64 loss to Lutheran East in a Division IV regional final in Canton on Friday.

CANTON — John F. Kennedy coach Mark Komlanc shuttled all of his players, who were dejected after Friday’s 67-64 loss to Lutheran East, to center court.

The Eagles boys basketball team wanted more from their first trip to the regional finals in more than three decades. Coming up short to the Falcons in the Division IV Canton Regional final at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse didn’t console JFK as it hoisted the runner-up trophy.

The Eagles also had two 3-point tries in the final 10 seconds in an attempt to tie the game, but they went awry as the Falcons head to next week’s state tournament in Columbus.

“It’s really impressive,” said JFK senior point guard Justin Bofenkamp of his team making regional finals. “There was one team that did that back-to-back, so I guess that puts us as one of the top teams at Kennedy. We would’ve liked a lot more, though.

“You can’t consider it an accomplishment. It’s something you’ll look back on and say it was good. Right now, you’re not too excited about it.”

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo JFK's student section raises their fingers as a Lutheran East player shoots a foul shot Friday in Canton.

JFK trailed 31-16 with 2:35 left before halftime. Turnovers plagued the Eagles, having 12 of them at the break. Lutheran East was 22 of 46 from the floor and 6 of 15 from 3-point range.

Komlanc, JFK’s first-year coach, said his team was focusing on the taking away the interior from Lutheran East.

“We got back in the game because we played the way we did all year,” Komlanc said. “To start the game I tried to do something a little bit different. That was my fault. That’s the only regret I have from this game. I think I took an opportunity for them to go to Columbus away.

“Hats off to Lutheran East. I think they’re a great representative of northeast Ohio. This feeling sucks.”

Considering Lutheran East’s miscues at the foul line (17 of 28), JFK, which finihsed its season 20-8),had an opening.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo JFK's Byron Taylor guards Luthearn East's Maurico Tate during their Division IV Canton Regional Final at Canton Memorial Field House. Lutheran East won, 67-64.

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles seized their moment as 6-foot-7 senior Antonio McQueen was energized — something the Falcons (18-9) seemingly took away. McQueen had six of his 10 rebounds and scored 10 points in the quarter as the Eagles.

“When we broke it down from a 15-point lead, we knew we had to get the ball in,” said McQueen, who had 18 points. “Just getting it in and getting it in. That momentum just built up. I was continuing to get the ball.”

JFK set up the fourth with Alec Burzynski finding Byron Taylor at the top of the key for 3. Then, the Eagles pressure defense forced Lutheran East into one of its three turnovers in the third as JFK trailed 46-40 going into the final stanza.

“You keep that focus,” said Bofenkamp, who had a game-high 23 points in his final performance with the Eagles. “Somebody hits a big shot. You hear the crowd get into it. That just flows through us. Once we got the whole crowd with us, we seemed to start rolling. Once we got that momentum, it’s really hard to let us give it up. We rode that the whole second half.”

Taylor, who had 16 points and six of the team’s 12 assists, found McQueen in the post. He tried for a three-point play with 5:16 remaining, but missed the free throw. Kennedy hoisted up two more shots. The Eagles were 23 of 47 from the floor. McQueen grabbed an offensive board for a putback to close the gap to 52-51 with 5:05 left as the JFK fans and student section erupted with enthusiasm.

Then senior Nate Woods, one of the instrumental cogs in Kennedy’s run, picked up his fifth foul on a questionable charging foul with 3:42 left. He was playing with four fouls most of the second half after picking up his fourth with 7:15 left in the third.

“It stunk not having Nate back in at the end,” Komlanc said. “I thought he made a great play. I’ll leave it at that. That wasn’t what won or lost the game. They (officials) were consistent both ways.”

Lutheran East started to pull away with a minute left as Maurico Tate made 1 of 2 from the line for a 64-57 lead. Taylor again hit a crucial 3 with 38.3 remaining as the Eagles trailed 65-62. Bofenkamp drove to the basket as Lutheran East clung to a 66-64 advantage with 24.2 remaining.

The Falcons called timeout with 15.5 left as Kennedy was on the verge of a steal.

Then, JFK’s Boyd picked up his fifth foul with 12.1 left as he tackled Tyler Powell with the form he used as a linebacker in football season. It was called an intentional foul, but Powell missed both free throws.

The Falcons got the ball back as Jordan Burge made 1 of 2 from the line with 10 seconds remaining, leading 67-64.

Maurico Tate led the Falcons with 19 points, while Travis Sanders had 15 and Burge added 10.

With no timeouts remaining for either team, JFK made its last surge, but missed two 3-pointers to end the game.

Nonetheless, it was a season to remember for JFK — losing six seniors in McQueen, Jared Misocky, Woods, Aaron Williamson, Bofenkamp and Boyd.

“All those seniors stepped up and played wonderful,” said Komlanc, who was embraced by his family many times following the game. “I can’t say enough about that group of guys.”

Nobody can say enough of the JFK comeback on Friday.

“We’re competitors and we were never going to hang our heads,” Bofenkamp said. “We were never going to say this one must be over.

“We kept pushing, kept pushing.”

That’s they way JFK has approached the entire season.