No rest for JFK after loss to Trinity

WARREN – The Presidents Day break from school is normally a welcomed long weekend for students.

If John F. Kennedy Eagles basketball coach Shawn Pompelia has his way, the players might wish they were in school for a pop quiz instead of practicing basketball come Monday.

Pompelia had been pleased with the recent play by the Eagles. That changed Friday night in a 61-55 North Coast League loss to the Trinity Trojans at Gillen Gymnasium.

Pompelia was upset with the inability of the guards to get the ball inside to post players Zackary Usher and James Burney. Usher and Burney gave the Eagles a size advantage, and in Pompelia’s thinking, they should have scored more than a combined 27 points.

“We shoot 4-of-17 shooting 3 balls,” Pompelia said. “We’re pounding our guards to get it into the post. They had no answer for Zach, and he’s a nice passer in the post when they double. James did a nice job in the paint.

“If our guards continue to selfishly shoot 3s, it’s going to be a short tournament run. These guards won’t wake up until we show them on the film.”

JFK has a 7-12 record and a 1-8 mark in the NCL. The Trojans, who defeated the Eagles earlier this season, are 9-11 and 3-6 in the NCL.

Pompelia liked what he saw of the Eagles in recent games, giving him optimism that their demanding schedule was a good primer for the Orwell Division IV district. Last night’s showing has him re-thinking things a bit.

“We were playing very well up until tonight,” Pompelia said. “We have been playing our best basketball. If our guards don’t understand their role, by Tuesday they will. I promise you that.”

Trojans coach Mick Fecko had no problems with the play of his guards. Jake Gerrick and Cory Haire combined for 42 points (23 by Gerrick and 19 by Haire). Both are outstanding ball handlers and showed an ability to drive through traffic to the basket or connect from the perimeter.

“I’m so happy for those two guys because they stepped up,” Fecko said. “Having two guys with that type of experience takes a lot of pressure off the younger guys.”

Gerrick came through big time in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 of the Trojans’ 26 points. He was 6-of-6 at the foul line.

Gerrick’s performance came after Trinity managed just four points in the third quarter to fall behind, 37-35. The Eagles had a 39-38 lead when Gerrick put the Trojans ahead on a twisting drive. Haire followed with two free throws after a technical foul, and Kyle McSweeney made one foul shot to extend the lead to 43-39.

The score was tied at 43, 45 and 47 before another 3-point shot by Gerrick put Trinity ahead for good. The Trojans sealed the win by making 14-of-16 free throws in the final period.

Haire had the hot hand in the first half, scoring 12 points as the Trojans opened leads of 17-13 after one period and 31-27 at halftime. The Eagles increased their defensive intensity in the third quarter, particularly on Haire.

“They came out of the locker room after halftime and did a phenomenal job,” Pompelia said of the Eagles’ defensive play. “Probably one of the best defensive performances for a quarter that we’ve had all year. This game came down to the mental state. The technical really hurt us. It changed the momentum of the game.”

Burney finished with 16 points. Usher scored 11 and Luke Keck had 10.