’Cats spoil Smiley’s return to county
Shenango (52) Vs. Sharpsville (48)
Jan 25, 2010
By DAN IRWIN
For Jim Smiley, returning to Lawrence County to coach a high school basketball game was no big deal.
The Shenango High boys basketball team made the occasion even less memorable by handing Smiley’s Sharpsville squad a 51-48 nonleague loss Saturday night in the Wildcats’ gym.
“I’m pretty much converted — I’m a Mercer County guy now,” said Smiley, who is in his first year with the Blue Devils after spending 27 seasons as head coach at Neshannock. He lost his job with the Lancers after the 2007-08 campaign.
“District 10 is different,” he allowed. “Instead of looking south all the time, now you’re looking north. I’ve been to places this year where, quite frankly, I’d only seen on a map. All I know is the farther north you go, the more snow there is. It’s a new experience for me.”
Smiley & Co. did come south, though, on Saturday to take on the ’Cats. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, their shooting went in the same direction. Sharpsville hit just under 35 percent of its shots from the floor (17 of 49) en route to dropping to 7-7.
“We didn’t put the ball in the basket early, but guess what,” Smiley said. "Our kids have big heart. They fought back and put themselves in a position to where they could have pulled it out.”
Shenango (3-13) held a 47-37 lead after three quarters, but Sharpsville opened the final stanza with an 11-2 run to pull within one point with 1:36 remaining. Joe Colavecchia, though, scored from in front of the bucket with 1:18 left to make it a three-point game, and Jeff Williams hit the front-end of a one-and-one with just under two ticks left to ice the win.
Williams and Colavecchia finished with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
“Our defense picked up and we started forcing a lot of turnovers,” Smiley said. “Unfortunately, there was a point in the fourth quarter where we had four or five straight stops and didn’t score on the other end.”
Shenango head coach Bob McQuiston conceded that Sharpsville’s pressure may have affected his team, but he wasn’t going to let that spoil the night.
“I’ll take the win. We were in need of one,” he said. “I think we panicked a little bit, and I think that’s going to happen with younger guys. I think I had three sophomores in there at the time.
“But the guys came in tonight and played with some emotion. After last night’s loss, it was a tough one, but they bounced back and it was good to see them get a win.”
Certainly, one key to that was the ’Cats’ dominance on the boards, where sophomore Brett Chieze snared a team-high 10 rebounds to lead Shenango to a 40-28 advantage.
“Obviously, we stress that because we’re not a big team," McQuiston said. “I think this is one of the few teams we’ve outrebounded this year. The guys really got after it.”
Despite the loss, Smiley — a 1969 Shenango graduate — did note that he always enjoys returning to the gym where he once played.
“I have a lot of friends here, and people who have been supportive of me down through the years,” he said. “It’s home.”
Now Sharpsville has become his home away from home.
“The community has been very nice to me,” he said. “We have issues with playing time and so forth, but they have been supportive.
“Like I told them, I’m not trying to build a resume. I’ve already done that (compiling a 380-262 record at Neshannock). I’m just trying to help these kids and the program get a little better each day.”