Ursuline boys prevail despite rain delay

HOWLAND – A rain delay in basketball?

It doesn’t happen often, but it did Tuesday night in Howland.

As Ursuline and Champion entered the court for their pre-game warm-ups, the officials joined representatives from Howland High School at midcourt, opposite of the teams’ benches. The cause of the meeting was a steady drip that was coming from the roof onto the court.

The start of the Division III sectional semifinal nightcap was delayed nearly 45 minutes. Unfortunately for Champion, the pre-game leak provided little relief.

The third-seeded Irish were simply too strong right from the outset. Ursuline jumped out to a 20-9 lead after a quarter en route to an easy 72-37 victory. The Irish will meet Pymatuning Valley on Friday night. The Lakers held off a pesky Middlefield Cardinal squad, 68-61, in last night’s first game.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Irish coach Keith Gunther, referring not to the game but the delay. “Actually, the leak in the roof scared me. Our kids were really focused coming in. I thought we actually lost focus (during the extended pregame). Some of them were smiling. But we came out fast.”

That was an understatement. Ursuline (11-11) swarmed the Golden Flashes all over the court. They forced 18 first-half turnovers and led 36-13 at halftime.

“That’s what happens when you come in as the 12th seed, you play a team like that,” Champion coach Doug Foster said. “Their pressure defense, right from the get-go, took over the game.”

Ursuline also dominated the rebounding battle, holding a 36-15 edge, including 19-4 on the offensive end.

“That’s been our downfall all year,” said Foster, whose team bowed out at 3-20. “At the beginning of the year I told our kids if we rebound the ball we can win some games.”

Desmond McElroy paced the Irish with 12 points and Preston Williams added 11. Kevin Jackson pulled down eight boards for the winners. Chris Miller led Champion with 10 points.

Gunther said his team prefers a fast-paced game. He should have no problem with the tempo against the Lakers.

“They’ve got those three guys (Tim Cross, Austin Nowakowski and Quintin Ratliff) who are really good,” Gunther said. “We’re going to have to come out and do some of the same things and take those three out of the game.”

In Tuesday’s opener, Cardinal (11-12) took its first lead of the game when Jon Thompson split two free throws to make it 42-41 with 2 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Huskies trailed 23-16 after a quarter and 37-31 at intermission.

Pymatuning Valley, which led 46-44 after three frames, began the final 8 minutes with a 10-0 run and kept Cardinal at bay as Cross made 12 of 14 foul shots in the frame.

“This was really a team win for us,” PV coach Ryan Fitch said. “Austin got us going early with some big (3-pointers). Quintin made some big plays. (Chase) Thurber and (Grant) Nowakowski boxed out well and Tim hit his free throws.”

Cross, Austin Nowakowski and Ratliff scored 66 of the Lakers’ 68 points. Nowakowski had five of his six 3-pointers in the first half and tied Cross with 24 points. Ratliff added 18 points. Grant Nowakowski had 11 rebounds and Cross finished with 10.

The combination of PV (18-5) playing well and several fourth-quarter shots rolling in and out spelled doom for the Huskies.

“That was some of it ,but we had to play better defense,” Cardinal coach Jon Cummins said. “We didn’t play good defense tonight. We gave up 23 points in the first quarter; that’s not like us. They have a nice team. They play well and they’re tough.”

Doing his best to keep the Huskies in the game throughout was Jason Farmwald. The 5-foot-6 point guard finished with 24 points, six boards, four assists and two steals.

“He’s got a quick, quick first step,” Fitch said. “We tried to force him to his left but he could still get it back right. He’s a great player.”

Thompson added 12 points for Cardinal while Jake DiBlasio finished with nine points and six rebounds.