Sharpsville, Smiley top Wilmington
Wilmington (60) Vs. Sharpsville (78)
By DAN IRWIN
Both Sharpsville High head coach Jim Smiley and his team were getting high marks in that subject last night after downing Wilmington, 78-60, in their District 10, Region 2-AA finale.
To start with, the victory capped a one-season, worst-to-first turnaround for the Blue Devils, who claimed their first league title in two decades. It also spotlighted a marked change of status for Smiley, who was out of coaching a year ago after compiling a 380-262 mark in 27 years at Neshannock.
“The epitaph hasn’t been written on me yet,” quipped Smiley, whose job with the Lancers was opened after the 2007-2008 season.
Mostly, though, Smiley preferred to celebrate his team’s accomplishments rather than his own.
“I’m just thrilled for my players, because they have not won for a while,” he said. “There hasn’t been a number put on our banner since the ’80s.
“We were 2-2 at one point (this season), we made the turn at 3-2. I figured if we were going to make the playoffs, we were going to have to run the table. And that’s exactly what our kids did. We didn’t talk like that, we talked about one at a time, but that’s what these kids did and I’m proud of them.”
Sharpsville (8-2, 14-8) tied for first place with Greenville (8-2, 14-8) but will receive the automatic playoff bid afforded each District 10 region champion because it swept the Trojans in league play.
Like they did early in their season, the Blue Devils started out slow against Wilmington, playing to a 22-all tie with 5 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter. However, Sharpsville’s transition game suddenly kicked into gear, and the Blue Devils began to pull away.
They went on a 15-6 run to close out the half, then scored the first bucket of the third quarter to build a 40-28 lead. Wilmington got no closer than six points the rest of the way.
“I was pretty happy with our offense,” Wilmington coach Will Harris said of his team, which had been averaging just 48.8 ppg. and which hit 60 points for only the fourth time this year. “Tonight, it was defense in general, and specifically our transition defense, that hurt us.
“One pass to a layup or one pass to a quick, high-percentage shot is not something we can afford to give up, and we did too much of that tonight. That and offensive boards killed us. They got a lot of offensive boards early, and they’re too good of a shooting team to give them more than one chance per possession.”
Sharpsville also enjoyed a 23 of 32 night from the foul line, compared to the Greyhounds’ 9 of 13 performance. Three Wilmington starters — Matt Moesta, Brandon Burk and Brian Pitzer — fouled out en route to helping the Blue Devils compile their charity stripe advantage.
Ben Davis keyed the winners with 21 points, followed by Anthony Sloan with 16 and Eric Sike with 11.
Moesta led Wilmington with 16 markers, while Jake DeMedal and Burk contributed 15 apiece.
Wilmington finished 5-5 in the region (9-13 overall), but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Throw out a 17-point win over Lakeview and last night’s 18-point loss, and the Greyhounds remaining section games were decided by an average of 4.3 points per outing.
“I’m going to miss the five seniors who are graduating,” Harris said of Moesta, DeMedal, Burk, Rob Clark and Pitzer. “They have a lot of heart and a lot of determination.
“They lost seven in a row in the middle of the season and they could have went in the tank right there, but they didn’t. They made a run at the playoffs and that shows what kind of character they have.”