Western Reserve takes down Lordstown, again

LORDSTOWN – Western Reserve knew it had a big problem on Tuesday – Lordstown’s Nick Johnson.

The 6-foot-3 Red Devils post player has wreaked havoc on the Northeastern Athletic Conference, averaging a double-double per outing.

The Blue Devils didn’t let Johnson control the post as Western Reserve’s combination of Nick Tobin and Joe Falasca shut down the Lordstown forward to five points and 12 rebounds in a 58-47 Division IV sectional semifinal victory at Lordstown High School.

Seventh-seeded Western Reserve (10-13) contained the prolific Lordstown big man to one point in the first half with a 2-3 zone defense.

“He’s a great scorer, great rebounder,” Western Reserve coach Patsy Daltorio said. “He gets a lot of putbacks. With our zone, we talked about them running off screeners, looking to kick it into him real quick. We really focused on getting around him, and not letting him going to his right. Really, in general, when he gets it, just collapse.

“They have a couple shooters on the outside, but we were willing to take our chances with that.”

The Blue Devils shot 22 of 50 from the floor, while the Red Devils were 16 of 49 and 3 of 17 from 3-point range.

Lordstown coach Brian Force said the 6-4 Tobin and 6-5 Falasca did a good job frustrating Johnson.

Tobin had 19 points and nine rebounds to pace Western Reserve, while Tristen Bova and Nolan Snyder each had 12 points.

Tobin’s first practice was Monday. He missed the last two games with the flu and hasn’t had solid food in a week.

“Man oh man did he come out with some heart tonight,” Daltorio said. “Really a lot of guts from Nick Tobin tonight, just the fact he was always around the rim.”

The Blue Devils, who beat the Red Devils (13-9) 48-44 on Feb. 11 in Lordstown, learned from that first meeting. Western Reserve didn’t have all that much success in the post the first time around. Tuesday, the Blue Devils dominated the boards, 36-20.

“Our rebounding was suspect,” Daltorio said of the first meeting. “Our size, I told them, we have to use that to our advantage. We did a nice job of doing that tonight.”

Lordstown had a chance to dominate in the first quarter as Western Reserve committed eight turnovers, but the Red Devils shot 1 of 10 from the floor. The Blue Devils, who shot 4 of 10 from the floor, held a 9-7 lead.

“I think we got the right kind of shots,” Force said. “If they go down, it changes the whole game. Now, we’re not pressing so much, overthinking our open looks. I think you get a little tight when you start shooting the ball like that.

“Their turnovers did not lead to buckets. We couldn’t capitalize on them in transition.”

In the fourth quarter, Lordstown cut the lead to one, 46-45 with 3:15 left on Johnson’s scoop pass to a slashing Hunter King in the post.

From there, Western Reserve outscored the Red Devils 12-2 the rest of the way.

“We never got over the hump,” Force said.

The Blue Devils travel to third-seeded Lowellville on Friday in a Division IV sectional final. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.

“They’ll be a great challenge for us, no doubt about it,” Daltorio said. “They have a lot of kids that can score and they play the game really well.”

Jake Jones led Lordstown with 19 points, while Preston Sutton added 12.

Meanwhile, Lordstown celebrated its Northeastern Athletic Conference, Stripes Division title by cutting down the nets after the loss. Bristol, who shared the title with Lordstown, lost its first-round game on Tuesday.

“You’ve seen the energy in the gym change this year,” Force said of his team. “These seven seniors built that. They waited a long time to be this successful. Of course, we’d still like to be to be playing, but I can’t say enough about the senior leadership and our ability to put a good product on the floor for our community to be proud of.”