JFK battles Central Catholic in close loss

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo John F. Kennedy coach Mark Komlanc talks to the Eagles Friday night during JFK’s 64-56 loss to Cleveland Central Catholic.

WARREN — Jordan Duke showed his frustration early on as his team couldn’t get its transition game going as fluidly as it usually shows.

The Cleveland Central Catholic Ironmen jumped up from Division II to I this season and actually are a more potent team than they were last season.

This was an Ironmen team which defeated John F. Kennedy by 22 about a month ago, but was a little more difficult this time around as CCC got by a feisty, Division IV JFK team Friday, 64-56.

“JFK they come to win every night and play hard,” said Duke, whose team ends the regular season at 17-5. “They’ve got some players over there.

“They did everything they could do to get a win. We made some plays down the line and we were able to pull it out.”

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Cleveland Central Catholic’s Trevon Wells, left, is being guarded by Kennedy’s Tyler James, center, and Ryan Clark during Friday’s game in Warren.

Byron Taylor was the undoubted leader on this JFK team, which dropped two straight and is 11-10. He had 11 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter.

B.J. Williams found Taylor on the wing with 5:29 left to cut the Ironmen lead to 48-45, but that’s the closest the Eagles got as CCC went on a 15-3 run and pulled away for the victory.

Kennedy is going to rely on Taylor’s leadership as the Eagles make their way through the Division IV district at Grand Valley.

JFK coach Mark Komlanc said Taylor is a competitor and has a fire within him, which has been infectious within his team — signs of a good leader.

It’s part of the growing process this season for JFK, a team which made the Division IV Canton Regional final last season.

“Any team that makes a big run in the playoffs, forget the coaching,” Komlanc said. “You have guys that take over and are coaching on the floor. There’s no doubt about it.

“That’s why we take our bumps during the season because we struggle with that. Do it against competition, play tough teams like we did tonight and they’ll grow up. Come tournament time we’re in the right position and hopefully I don’t have to do very much. They’re taking care of it. That’s what they did last year. That’s what B.J. (Williams), Byron and Tyler (James) have to do. Their job is now.”

The regular season was part of Kennedy’s process as the Eagles had to learn to come together as a cohesive unit.

“It’s not all about winning in the regular season,” Komlanc said.

It was about how you play. That’s what it was about Friday as Kennedy emphasized not overdribbling and even took a 21-15 lead in the second quarter on two Taylor free throws. James added 13 points.

CCC started off with an intense full-court press after a score, which the Eagles started to figure out later in the first half.

“When we move the ball and use our brain rather than our athleticism, we’re pretty good with the athleticism we have,” Komlanc said.

“If we play like that, we’ll be fine with anybody.”

The Ironmen had nine players in the scoring column. Jerry Coleman III led with 14 points, while Anthony Billups and Dyshawn Jackson each added 13 points apiece — showing an unselfish team which is going to be a tough out in the Division I postseason.

Duke said if his team isn’t playing when and if fifth-seeded JFK and top-seeded Cornerstone Christian meet in a district semifinal, he’s going to be there watching.

“I’m excited to see who wins in that district,” Duke said.