BOARDMAN - It didn't take long for the first upset to take place in the Division II district basketball tournament March 2.
The Howland Tigers entered the tournament with a 13-7 record and a good chance to gain a berth in the semifinals. The Struthers Wildcats had a 7-13 record and were looking for something positive to take into next season.
The Wildcats found something to take them to the next level. They opened a 17-point halftime lead and held off a determined rally by the Tigers to post a 72-67 win.
"It's a terrible way to end the season," Howland coach Don Andres said. "I'm befuddled by this one. Foul trouble hurt us."
The Wildcats made 21-of-31 free throws, compared to 11-of-14 for the Tigers. Struthers was 14-of-18 from the foul line in the fourth quarter to seal the upset.
"This is a huge victory for our program," Struthers coach Joe Savko said. "The kids showed a lot of heart late in the game. It's not easy to lose an 18-point lead and stay in there and fight. It's easy to put your head between your legs, and we didn't do it."
The Tigers opened the third quarter aggressive on the defense end, which forced a quick change of fortunes. After reducing Struthers' lead to 45-35, the Tigers went on an 11-point run to take a 46-35 advantage.
Jared Kirin scored 15 of his 26 points in the third quarter for Howland, which took a 52-51 lead into the final eight minutes.
The scored was tied at 59 when the Wildcats scored seven of the next nine points. The Tigers rallied to take a 67-66 lead on fielders by Drew Guido, Ryan Glinn and Matt Haering.
A three-point play by Matt Durkin gave the Wildcats a 70-67 lead with 15.8 seconds remaining in the quarter. Guido then missed a 3-point shot. Durkin scored on an easy layup off the inbounds pass to end the scoring.
A key moment came when Kirin was whistled for a technical foul at the outset of the fourth quarter. Adam Ryczaj and Nate Jacubec both made a pair of free throws to give Struthers a 55-52 lead.
"I don't know what happened," Andres said.
Jacubec scored 10 points in the first quarter to propel the Wildcats to a 22-12 lead. Struthers continued to connect from the outside and score occasionally from the inside to control play in the second period.
Durkin led the Wildcats in scoring with 29 points. Jacubec had 18 and Ryczaj finished with 10.
Tyler Scott followed Kirin in scoring for Howland with 15 points. Guido finished with 10.
"I'm disappointed for th e senior class," Andres said.
n POLAND 97, HOWLAND 96, 2OT: HOWLAND - It seemed as if Poland's outside shooting and up-and-down game had worn on the Howland Tigers by the start of the fourth quarter of the Tigers' regular-season finale.
The Bulldogs had a stranglehold on a 14-point lead after an early David Barker basket.
But Howland knew this was its season finale, one last shot to win a share of the All-American Conference Red Division title.
The Tigers did rally to force overtime. However, Howland was bested once again by the Bulldogs, 97-96, in double-overtime Feb. 20 at Howland High School.
"Our team has character," said Howland coach Don Andres, whose team finishes the regular season 13-7, 5-3 AAC Red. "Our team doesn't quit."
Howland had its chances to win in both overtime sessions.
Niko Fatimus' layin with 20.4 seconds left put Poland up 97-96 . Fatimus led Poland with 29 points.
The Tigers drove the ball downcourt and had a play in mind.
Kyle Spence, who had a game-high 35 points, had the hot hand and seemed as if he would take the shot. He eventually took the shot and was fouled by Poland's Ben Donlow, but there was no call - one of many on the night. Donlow had 15 points.
"It was supposed to be a pick-and-roll with Spence," Andres said. "Kirin was open, but Spence didn't see him in time."
Kirin had 24 points and 13 rebounds.
Howland used its momentum it had in the fourth quarter, where it shot 10-of-14, to pull ahead 87-83 on Spence's steal and bucket with 2:04 left in the first extra session.
Thirty seconds later Tyler Scott, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds, fouled out. It was a big blow to the Howland interior since Scott had most of his rebounds after halftime. He was one of he driving forces behind the comeback. It was Scott's putback with 3 seconds left in regulation which tied the game at 80 and sent the game to overtime.
Donlow drove the lane with 42.6 seconds left in the first overtime and was fouled. He made both free throws to tie the game at 89.
Howland held for one shot. After taking a timeout 30 seconds later, Spence drove the lane and did a 180-degree spin move at the basket to avoid a Poland defender. His shot glanced over the rim and fell to the ground - sending the game to second overtime.
"We had our chances in both overtimes," Andres said.
Poland (15-4, 6-1) took command in the second quarter after holding a slim 24-23 first-quarter lead. The Bulldogs shot 10-of-14 from the floor and 4-of-7 from the 3-point line. Poland held a 48-35 lead at the half. Luke Wollet had 19 points, while David Baker had 21 points.
However, it started to fall apart for Bulldogs in the fourth quarter when Poland committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't do it pretty," Poland coach Ken Grisdale said of the victory.
However, he was impressed with Howland's tenacity. T.J. Lanier had 10 points for Howland.
"You have a senior-laden team and they're going to do anything they can to get a win," Grisdale said.
Unfortunately, it fell one point short for the Tigers.