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Poland girls continue their charge into the tournament

February 12, 2020
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

For the second season in a row, the Poland girls basketball team are the champions of the Northeast 8 Conference.

In fact, the Lady Bulldogs are still unbeaten in the league since its inception before last campaign. Poland clinched its second straight crown last Thursday night when they plastered Niles at home 52-21. Not only did that win end Poland's NE8 portion of the schedule unblemished, it pushed its season record to an amazing 18-2. There are only two games remaining on the Bulldogs' regular season slate. They'll start the postseason in the Austintown Sectional finals on February 20.

A 20-6 run in the opening quarter against the Lady Red Dragons pretty much wrapped a bow on the conference title. Defense ruled in the second quarter with Poland picking up a 5-2 win in this offensively challenged stanza. Up 25-8, Poland head coach Nick Blanch was allowed to use his bench more and give some starters a breather. Before exiting the contest, junior Jackie Grisdale grilled the Dragons for 17 points. More than half of those tallies came from beyond the 3-point arc. Junior Katie Masucci hit a pair of threes and ended the game with 10 points. Senior Kailyn Brown just missed double digits with nine points. Senior Sara Bushaw hit two triples to account for her six points. Senior Brooke Bobbey brought in five.

Three nights before nailing Niles, the Bulldogs beat up Hubbard for the second time this season. In early January, the Bulldogs hammered Hubbard at home 64-24. They once again erased the Eagles by forty points last Monday night in Trumbull County 60-20. Hubbard was held to just nine points over the first three periods. Poland led 18-2 after one quarter then an unheard of 38-4 at halftime. Eleven different Bulldogs got into the scorebook led by Grisdale who nailed three long balls en route to 19 points. Senior Katie McDonald and sophomore Morgan Kluchar both brought home eight points from Hubbard. Junior Ella Harrell had five points. Sophomore Connie Cougras claimed five points as well. Freshman Ariana Daniels played significant minutes and scored four points.

With the NE8 all wrapped up, Poland will play two last non-conference games against Howland and Canfield before commencing the state tournament. The clash with the rival Lady Cardinals on Feb. 13 will give Poland a chance to earn revenge for one of its two losses. Canfield upset the Dogs 40-36 back on Dec. 28. After those two tilts Blanch's group will attempt to defend their district championship from a year ago. They'll check into the Austintown District as the number 2 seed and will have a first round bye. Poland plays the winner of the showdown between Struthers and Niles for the sectional crown. Needless to say, the Bulldogs won't be sweating either school considering they have already beaten both of them twice on their way to winning the NE8. They slapped down Struthers by a combined score of 109-79. Thanks to that win over the Dragons last week, the Bulldogs have blasted them 133-62 over the pair of contests. While Poland is certainly a threat to advance deep into the playoffs, everyone in the Austintown part of the bracket will be looking to bring down number one seed West Branch. Like Poland, the Lady Warriors are 18-2 and are the undefeated champs of their conference. The two top teams in the district haven't faced each other on the hardwood this season but have staged some classic matches in past years. It seems highly unlikely at this time if these two Division II juggernauts aren't the last two standing with the district belt hanging in the balance.



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