Second-half spark

Taylor’s 35 helps JFK rally past Golden Flashes

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems John F. Kennedy’s Hyland Burton pulls up for a 3-pointer in front of the Champion student section during the Eagles’ matchup with the Golden Flashes on Tuesday. Kennedy won the game, 67-58.

WARREN — Behind Byron Taylor’s 35-point outburst, John F. Kennedy got into the win column over Champion, 67-58.

Early on it seemed that Champion (5-7) had figured out what to do as the Golden Flashes’ offense was working on all cylinders. It led 19-11 after the first quarter.

The second went much better for John F. Kennedy (5-5) as it started playing at the speed it wanted. Champion led by one, 33-32, at halftime. JFK finished the half on a 8-2 run to get closer.

“I think that we played at their speed. We wanted to try to slow it down offensively,” Champion coach Nathan Kish said. “We didn’t handle that well. When we turned the ball over, it led to points on the other end. That was the biggest thing that killed us.”

Transition offense is what got JFK going in the second half. Taylor scored 20 of his 35 points in the second half, including nine in the third quarter. JFK took the lead at 51-47 after three quarters.

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Champion’s Joe Abramovich, right, dribbles around John F. Kennedy’s Hyland Burton during their game Tuesday.

“We were just focused in the second half. I thought we started the game well, but we didn’t shoot the ball well. That has been our M.O.,” JFK coach Mark Komlanc said.

“We are a better shooting team than what we showed. When our shots weren’t falling, we lost interest in playing defense.”

Komlanc said the second half also was a product of keeping his team’s intensity up.

Despite a solid offensive showing for Champion, the Golden Flashes didn’t play the best defense. Chase Wheelock led Champion with 19 points, including both of Champion’s 3-pointers.

JFK used the 3-pointer to its advantage, hitting five more than the Flashes as Taylor hit three while B.J. Williams and Gianni Eaton had two each.

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Champion boys basketball coach Nathan Kish, right, voices his displeasure during the Golden Flashes’ 67-58 loss to John F. Kennedy on Tuesday in Warren.

“I don’t know if we were out of sorts on the defensive end more than just not handling the pressure and making the best decisions,” Kish said. “When you’re getting pressed, you have to be confident with the ball. Attacking the basket but not attacking to attack, make wise decisions. We played hard and we left everything on the court. That is all I can ask for.”

JFK forced a lot of second-half turnovers on Champion, and that was ultimately the difference.

“We don’t always rebound well because of the way we play defense,” Komlanc said. “When we needed to today. We got the rebounds and got some timely steals that led to scores.”

Champion has a quick turnaround as it plays Girard at home today, while JFK plays at St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday.

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems John F. Kennedy’s Byron Taylor, center, drives to the basket against Champion defenders Nate Stahlman, left, Gabe Deuble (12) and Drake Batcho (24) during their game Tuesday. Taylor scored a game-high 35 points in the Eagles’ victory.