Bulldogs break through

Lakeview ends lengthy district title drought

Special to Tribune Chronicle Lakeview seniors TJ Lynch and Drew Munno raise the Division II district championship trophy as they celebrate their victory Saturday.

BOARDMAN — Five great players equal one championship.

For the first time since 2001, the Lakeview Bulldogs are Division II district champions with a 72-59 victory over Struthers Saturday afternoon in Boardman.

“Most of us weren’t even born yet the last time our school won a district championship,” said junior Jeff Remmick. Remmick got the Bulldogs started with six first-quarter points. He finished with 12.

Lakeview held a 15-10 lead after the first because of Remmick and teammate TJ Lynch, a third-team All-District selection. Lynch had five points in the quarter and finished with 17.

“We came in here focused on defense and the offense kind of just flowed,” Lynch said. ” I think we play really good in this gym. We really played together as a team.”

Special to Tribune Chronicle Lakeview's TJ Lynch (4) shoots a floater over Struthers' Trey Metzka Saturday afternoon in the Division II district championship game at Boardman. The Bulldogs beat the Wildcats, 72-59, to advance to the regional at Canton Civic Center.

The Bulldogs (20-6) will play Villa Angela-St. Joseph at 6:15 p.m. Thursday in a regional semifinal at the Canton Civic Center.

Lakeview is arguably the most balanced team in the area. Any one of the five starters could be the leader in any statistic in any given game.

“This group is unselfish. That’s one of the best things about them,” Lakeview coach Ryan Fitch said. “They could care less who scores, who gets the assists, who gets the rebounds. As long as we get the win, we’re happy. It’s sharing the ball. They’ve been getting in tune since the summer league.”

Juniors AJ McClellan and third-team All-District selection Daniel Evans hit back-to-back 3-pointers during different stretches in the second quarter. The Bulldogs began pulling away in the quarter, doubling up Struthers 24-12 to take a 39-22 halftime lead. McClellan finished with 15 points.

“It feels great. I don’t know if a lot of people expected us to do this besides us,” McClellan said.

Lakeview's Daniel Evans drives to the basket against Struthers' defender Kevin Traylor.

The Bulldogs couldn’t buy a basket for the first four minutes of the third quarter. Struthers trimmed the deficit to nine at 39-30 when Carson Ryan drilled a 3 from deep. Lakeview called timeout.

“We got a little tentative attacking pressure. We started playing not to lose, instead of trying to win,” Fitch said. “We called a timeout and said we need to attack the pressure and make some baskets.”

Evans finally got Lakeview going with a couple more huge 3-pointers. He finished with a game-high 18 points, including five makes from beyond the arc.

“I’m so happy for everyone. I’m looking forward to the next game,” Evans said.

Lakeview regained control and took a 52-35 lead into the 4th.

Lakeview's AJ McClellan dribbles upcourt as Struthers' Adrian Brown defends

Senior Drew Munno put all five starters in double figures with his lay-up with four minutes remaining in the game.

“It feels amazing. It means the world to us. Being a senior, it means everything,” Munno said.

Lynch was strong in the fourth quarter with a rebound put-back. As usual, he hit his free throws down the stretch. He scored eight points in the quarter to help seal the victory.

It was somewhat of an unlikely match-up, given the fact that fifth-seeded Lakeview knocked off No. 1 Poland and No. 6 Struthers beat second-seeded Howland to get to this point.

“Struthers is a great team. We split with them during the season,” Lynch said. “I’ve never felt this before. It feels pretty good.”

Kevin Traylor and Ryan Leonard led Struthers with 16 points apiece.

“The last six games we’ve been playing our best basketball,” Struthers coach James Franceschelli said. “It started with them. It ended with them. We’ve been on a roll since we won at their place. They came out and executed tonight. Coach Fitch does a great job over there.”

Fitch made his first substitutions of the game with 25 seconds to go.

“I’m still waiting for someone to wake me up and tell me we beat Poland,” Fitch said. “Two great wins for our program. It’s going to take a while for that to sink in. It’s not really about the seeds this time of year. It’s about who’s playing well.

“Struthers has been playing really well since they beat us by 19. I knew it was going to be a battle. We didn’t sub until the end. We felt comfortable with the first five guys. We felt they could handle the pressure.”