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Poland girls heartbroken in district finals

March 11, 2020
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

The last basketball game of February was played in Austintown between top seeded West Branch and number two seed Poland in the Division II district championship. It was expected that this showdown would be a classic and the two schools didn't disappoint. In a matchup between the two best teams in Austintown's bracket, West Branch nipped Poland 44-43 ending a magical two year run by the Lady Bulldogs. Poland's season ended with a 22-3 record and with just four losses over a two season span.

"A lot of people thought last year was our glory run, but these girls have worked hard to write their own story," said Poland head coach Nick Blanch a few days before bowing out of the tourney. "They did such a great job."

Blanch's kids did a great job in three of the four quarters against the Lady Warriors. It was the second period that pestered Poland the most. The two teams played to a 9-9 tie in the first quarter then the Warriors went on a 13-7 run over the next eight minutes to take a 22-16 halftime lead. That advantage would stretch to as much as 39-31 before the resilient Bulldogs bounced back to tie the game at 43 apiece. With 45 seconds left, West Branch missed a shot that would have given it the lead. Poland rebounded the errant shot and now had the opportunity to steal the district crown. When the clock was down to nine seconds, the Bulldogs called timeout to come up with the perfect play to ice the win. Unfortunately, Poland's inbounds pass was picked off by the Warriors' Carly Scarpitti and, after she was fouled, Scarpitti hit one of two free throws. The second charity shot was rebounded by Poland's Jackie Grisdale, who was fouled by Scarpitti. If that boneheaded infraction was hard to fathom, the fact that the usually ultra-clutch Grisdale missed the front end of her one and one foul shot was downright unthinkable. The Warriors rebounded the loose ball and ran out the final seconds of Poland's season. Coach Blanch believed that all of those last second shenanigans wouldn't have been necessary if he was more prudent on his earlier inbounds strategy.

"It was a bad play call on my part," said Blanch.

The veteran coach also discussed his game plan for stopping the Warriors throughout the game. He felt that that scheme was well thought out, but West Branch destroyed it by hitting 17 field goals and eight 3-pointers.

"We wanted to keep them out on the perimeter, and we did," said Blanch, "but they hit their shots."

Hitting the most shots for the Bulldogs was Grisdale, who despite coming up short at the end, still scored a team-high 22 points. Nineteen of that total output came in the second half as Poland attempted its comeback. She also nailed six of her squad's seven triples. Senior Kailyn Brown hit the other trey and finished with 13 points. Junior Lizzy Herdman and sophomore Morgan Kluchar both scored four points.

Grisdale played hero one more time for Poland in its 47-36 triumph over Southeast in the district semifinal played February 26. She scored 19 points in that win adding to her abundant scoring total for the season. Senior Brooke Bobbey hit three three's and ended the night with 11 points. Brown and Kluchar scored seven and six points respectively.

Besides Bobbey and Brown the Bulldogs with take every little step next year without Katie Masucci and Sara Bushaw. This is a spectacular group of seniors that only lost 12 times over their four years in the program. Also on their resumes is a 2019 district crown and regional finals appearance.

While losing this quartet will be painful, having Grisdale and her 1000 plus career points returning should be great medicine. Fellow juniors Herdman and Ella Harrell will also be back. Kluchar will lead underclassmen such as Connie Cougras, Abby Farber, Ariana Daniels, Emma Wolfe, Katie McDonald and Sarah Forsyth into their junior and sophomore campaigns. All of those young Bulldogs should be ready to battle for even more playing time next November. They'll all be expected to carry on the amazing legacy left by their departed senior sisters.

 
 

 

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