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Bulldog boys bounce Chaney in OT, head to Regionals

March 13, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

Ever since the start of this calendar year, nothing seemed too difficult for the Poland boys basketball team.

In fact, Poland's men were riding a 17-game winning streak as it entered the Division II Youngstown District championship last Saturday afternoon in Boardman. While Poland was nearly perfect this season at 22-2, upstart Chaney was just revitalizing its program. This campaign was the first in seven seasons for the Cowboys on the hardwood. The number three seed was riding high after eliminating second seeded Lakeview in their district semifinal. In their first season back on the courts the Cowboys owned an impressive 21-5 record.

For a great portion of last weekend's championship clash, it seemed as if the Cowboys were ready to unceremoniously bounce the Bulldogs from the tournament too. It took an extra period for Poland to finally put away the pesky Cowboys 69-57 in overtime. The Bulldogs now advance to the regionals where they'll play Akron Buchtel.

The West Siders stood tall against the seemingly unbeatable Bulldogs as they were in control on both ends of the court. Only a controversial call at the end of the first half allowed the Bulldogs a slim 26-25 lead at intermission. Poland tipped in a missed basket at the buzzer that seemed to fall in after the half actually ended.

The contest remained nip and tuck over the second sixteen minutes with the score settling at 52-52 at the end of regulation. That tie was made possible by Poland's senior Daniel Kramer who scored on a layup with about 1:30 left in the game. Poland then needed that fifth period to prove why it was the Youngstown district's top dog. It outscored Chaney 17-5 in OT buoyed by a defensive unit that kept the Cowboys off the scoreboard for the final 2:50 of the extra session.

Kramer's game-tying layup was the culmination of a huge night that saw the senior score 32 points. He also had five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Fellow senior Braeden O'Shaughnessy was almost as sharp as Kramer was scoring 22 points to go along with six rebounds and four steals. Michael Cougras was up next with eight points for the winners.

The district title was made possible because Poland easily disposed of rival Canfield in the semifinal round on March 6. Poland plastered the Cardinals 64-30 in a game that wasn't even that close if that's believable. O'Shaughnessy sank a three-pointer and was fouled with just a tick left on the first quarter clock. That four-point play turned a 13-10 Poland lead into 17-10. The Bulldogs never looked back after outscoring the Cardinals 28-8 in the second stanza. Neither team was ultra-successful from three-point land with Poland going 5 for 12 and Canfield 4-16. It was the higher seed's domination inside the paint and on the glass, however, that spurred the cozy victory. Kramer captured 22 points and had six rebounds. O'Shaughnessy scored 21 points with five rebounds and three steals. Senior guard Jeff McAuley came off the bench to hit a couple of triples and end with eight points. Cougras captured 6 points. Last Wednesday's clash with the Cardinals ended much better than back in early December when Canfield edged Poland on its home floor in the United Way Classic. Coach Grisdale easily recognized the difference between those two tilts.

"We didn't come out ready to play (in the first game)," said Grisdale. "(Canfield) executed really well and were up 25-11 after one quarter. We came back and lost by four, but that game stuck with us (heading into the semifinal match). With so much on the line our kids were locked in."

Grisdale hopes his boys remained locked in when they battled Buchtel this past Wednesday at the Canton Civic Center. The number one seed and champs of the Canton District entered that game 18-7 with three lopsided wins in the tournament so far over Marlington, Akron East and Tallmadge. Except for the sectional final contest with number 8 seed Marlington, Buchtel didn't play any of the highest possible seeds. Perhaps that's why the Griffins won those games by a total combined 84 points. Smooth sailing won't be as easy for the Akron guys when they encounter the red hot Bulldogs.



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