Fourth-quarter rally leads Irish

YOUNGSTOWN – Ursuline coach Keith Gunther didn’t like his team’s play in the first three quarters against Western Reserve Academy.

“I wasn’t happy the way we played the first three quarters defensively,” Gunther said. “They were beating us off the dribble. We were athletically a little quicker than them.”

The fourth quarter was much different as the Fighting Irish beat the Pioneers Sunday at the second annual Lariccia’s See Them Rise High School Basketball Showcase, 62-49.

Peter Barba hit a 3-pointer to cut the Irish lead to 45-44 with 6:12 remaining. From there, Ursuline (6-7), which has won five of its last six games, went on a 13-0 run.

“I thought in the fourth quarter we did a really good job of pressuring them into some turnovers on the pass because we were denying the pressure of the ball,” Gunther said. “We kind of took away the penetration.”

Ursuline outrebounded WRA, 28-21, with Kevin Jackson and Khallid Pierce each getting eight boards.

Ryan Strollo led all scorers and Ursuline with 21 points, nine coming in the fourth. Preston Williams added 14 points. Desmond McElroy added 11 points, while Jackson had 10.

“As a group, they decided we can’t let this team keep scoring,” Gunther said. “I watched them hug each other and say, ‘Let’s buckle down. Let’s get some stops here.'”

Ursuline, which only goes seven deep due to injuries, got a break during the second half. Unfortunately, it came at the expense of Erick Bryant, who took an inadvertent elbow to the head, causing him to profusely bleed. He didn’t return to the game and had stitches.

There was blood on the floor, stopping the game for about 10 minutes because the clean-up crew could not be immediately found.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Ursuline got another break as a Pioneer player bled on the floor, causing a 5-minute delay.

“At one of the points, we were getting kind of tired,” Gunther said. “It helped us a little bit. That helped us get a little bit on an energy level back.”

WRA (6-3), coming off an earlier loss to state-ranked Akron Hoban, gave Ursuline a game for three quarters.

WRA had 12 first-half turnovers and 19 for the game. Ursuline only made five.

“Basketball is a game where you’re going to make mistakes,” WRA coach John Humphrey said. “Defensively, if you get after it, that allows you to get easier points. It helped us despite those earlier turnovers.”

John Saucier led the Pioneers with 18 points.

As for Ursuline, which hosts Akron East on Tuesday, it is hoping to continue its good streak.

“Trying to get to .500,” Gunther said.