NILES - It was just one shot made in the first quarter of a 20-point game, but Kevin White's basket from midcourt pretty much summed up the night, and the Poland-Niles series for that matter.
White's successful heave to beat the buzzer gave Poland a 20-13 advantage at the end of the period. Just seconds earlier, Niles junior Ray Russ hit back-to-back shots. After trailing by 14-4 midway through the frame, it appeared Niles would head to the bench down by just four.
It wasn't meant to be.
Poland maintained its seven point lead into the break, then outscored the Dragons 25-11 in the third period. The Bulldogs eventually rolled to a 72-52 All-American Conference, American Division road win.
The victory lifts Poland's record to 12-5 (8-3). Niles falls to 2-16 (1-9).
"That's the way we drew the play up," Poland coach Ken Grisdale said with a laugh afterward. "Get the ball to the shortest kid on the court and let him throw one up from half court with his eyes closed."
"That was definitely a big momentum swing. We had a huge game last week (vs. Canfield) and we play Struthers this Friday. I think we sleepwalked at times early on, but that shot gave us a boost."
The dagger seemed fitting in a series which has been completely dominated by Poland. It has won 27 of the last 28 meetings against the Red Dragons.
White finished with seven points, but it was Poland senior Colin Reardon who was the overall star of the night. Reardon finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, even though he checked out with 6:33 left in the game.
Jerry Lawman added 13 points and Eddie Moore chipped in with 12. In all, 10 Poland players contributed in the scoring column.
Niles was paced by junior Ray Russ, who scored 19. Joe Profanchik (11 points, six rebounds) and Chris Parry (10 points) helped the Niles effort.
Moore scored six of his 12 points in a first quarter which saw Poland get numerous second-chance scoring opportunities. On the night, Poland owned a 37-22 rebounding advantage.
"We've been very up and very down this year in terms of rebounding," Grisdale said. "We've not been real consistent, and that is something we harped on in practice. We did a good job on the boards tonight, and because of it the rest of our game clicked."
Poland clicked on all cylinders in the third quarter, when it put the game away for good. Reardon scored eight points in the frame, including a pair of three-pointers. His second shot from beyond the arc just beat the third period buzzer.
"Colin is an amazing kid. He's an amazing athlete who can do it all," Grisdale said. "Football is his specialty, but he can excel in any sport. We just try to get the most out of him when he's in our hands."
"His presence really opens up opportunities for other players on the court."
Poland finished with seven 3-pointers on the night.
"They beat us inside and outside. They had all the answers tonight," Niles coach Rick Kover said. "We couldn't convert when we beat the press, and they would get a rebound and go right down and score at the other end. We're only down by seven, and we miss a couple of easy baskets and the next thing you know we're down 14."
Grisdale was pleased with his team's effort, noting that Niles' record is a bit misleading.
"They've been in just about every game. Twice, they played Struthers as well as anyone. We knew we had to be prepared tonight, and our guys responded," Grisdale said.
Meanwhile, it is back to the drawing board for the Dragons, who will look to rebound Friday when it hosts Canfield.
"There's always a spurt in the game that turns things around. We have to learn to play a full four quarters," Kover said.
Poland also won the junior varsity game, 66-28.