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Spartans claim Red Tier title and number three seed in tournament

February 20, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

A spectacular 15-game winning streak has helped propel the Boardman boys basketball team to the championship of the All American Conference's Red Tier.

Boardman's boys clinched the title with a convincing 74-53 win over Warren Harding on Feb. 8. That marked the second time the Spartans have disposed of the Raiders this season. In fact, Boardman has beaten every team in the conference en route to an unbeaten league mark. The Spartans are also 18-3 overall and have earned the number 3 seed and a first round bye in the upcoming Division I state tournament. They'll host the winner of the match between Dover and Massillon Washington on Saturday, March 2.

Head coach Pat Birch believes the conference championship is the culmination of years of laying a foundation for a solid organization.

"Winning the conference means so much to our program," he said recently. "A lot of guys came before who helped us build the program."

The longtime bench boss went on to pay homage to the current assembly of athletes who have reaped the benefits of all of that building. Their hard work and unselfishness were major factors why they have run roughshod over the Red Tier this winter.

"This group in particular has been very focused and had the right approach all season," said Birch. "They are more worried about getting better and winning than they are on individual stats. They genuinely like playing for each other. They have been a fun and easy group to coach."

The rematch with the Raiders was fun and easy because Boardman built a 13-0 lead to start it. A 49-20 lead at halftime pretty much made this contest a laugher in the second half. Just like in Boardman's 67-43 blowout of Harding on January 23, the Raiders were forced into a multitude of mistakes by the Spartans' suffocating defense.

"Our defensive pressure was the main difference in the first half," said Birch.

One of the main beneficiaries of that defense on the offensive end was Derrick Anderson. The junior guard plastered Harding for 23 points, eight assists, four rebounds and four steals.

"(Anderson) had a huge game," Birch said.

Che Trevena was terrific too with 14 points, three rebounds and three steals. Ethan Andersen was a force on both ends with 13 points and a dozen rebounds. Nick Torres had a huge second quarter when the Spartans started to pull away and finished the night with 10 points.

The Spartans stepped out of conference for their next two games, but didn't lose a step. They smothered Erie First Christian Academy 67-42 on Feb. 9 at home, then went on the road and came away with a pretty 66-59 win over Louisville.

"That was a big win on the road versus a very good team," said Birch about the victory over the Leopards.

The Boardman brigade broke a 43-43 tie in the fourth quarter by outscoring its hosts 23-16 over the final eight minutes. A 7 for 8 performance from the foul line helped the Spartans steal this important win. Anderson was at it again with 22 points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists. Trevena took home 12 points.

Anderson was amazing against the Erie outfit too. He scored 19 points to lead the team and had seven assists, steals and rebounds. Trevena tallied 11 points to go along with five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Tommy Fryda scored eight points.

Fryda also scored eight points in last Friday's 63-41 clobbering of nemesis Canfield. His back-to-back three-pointers in the second quarter helped the Spartans blow open this contest. The win was also extra special because it happened as Boardman honored its four seniors on the annual Senior Night. Anderson would score 16 points and have six assists and four rebounds. Daeone Martin had what Birch called "his best all-around game" scoring 12 points and grabbing seven boards. Trevena scored 10 points with seven rebounds and three steals.

The only game left on Boardman's regular season schedule is the second go around with the Falcons in Austintown on Friday. Boardman has already beaten their suburb brothers by 17 points at home in early January. Birch hopes that this game with Fitch is used to fine tune his team as they await their opponent for the sectional championship.

"As we head down the final stretch of the season, we are focused on becoming the best version of ourselves," he said. "We need to keep executing and competing at a high level."



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