HOWLAND, TWP. Ohio — Ursuline High boys’ basketball program must be one of the best-kept secrets in the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Perhaps its perception, but it seems as though the Irish annually appear in the postseason poised with a pedestrian won-lost regular-season record, only to upstage opponents with more impressive numbers.
During Tuesday night’s Division III Howland Sectional semifinal, Ryan Strollo’s 11 fourth-period points helped Ursuline upset Brookfield, 47-40.
By virtue of the victory Ursuline (13-11) will meet Leavittsburg-LaBrae Saturday at 7 p.m. for the championship.
“ ... I think our strength of schedule that we play,” began 10th-year head coach Keith Gunther, whose Irish commenced the campaign with 6 consecutive setbacks. “We’re always gonna have seven or eight losses on our schedule. We prepare a tough schedule with ‘Ed’s’ (Lakewood-St. Edward), ‘St. V’s’ (Akron-St. Vincent/St. Mary), NCDL (Notre Dame Cathedral Latin), some upper-level teams, just in case we get to this point. Facing size and athleticsim, we want to be able to see everything,
“For us,” Gunther emphasized, “it’s not always about winning; sometimes it’s just about trying to prepare yourself for March, and I think our schedule and our AD does a great job with that.”
“They’ve played some big-time programs, Division I ... they’ve competed with some really good teams. We just had trouble finding shots (Tuesday) night,” admitted 1st-year Brookfield bench boss Bill Kovach.
Strollo, a 6-foot-2 senior sharpshooter, struggled through a 3-for-13 performance during the first 3 quarters. During the 4th frame, however, he did not miss a shot. His right-wing triple with 7:13 remaining knotted the count at 31. He then added a putback and jumper from the lane, extending the Irish’s edge to 35-32 with 3:57 left.
There was no bounce-back for Brookfield from that juncture, though Ryan Mosora’s trey from the right wing with approximately 43 ticks to play drew the Warriors within 41-37.
However Preston Williams — plagued with 3 personal fouls with 4:26 remaining in the 1st half — went 5 for 7 from the line during the period. And twice, the Irish missed the back-end of 2-shot free-throw situations, only to have Khallid Pierce and Kevin Jackson’s offensive rebound break Brookfield’s back.
“We stressed boxing out; they just got some long rebounds,” Kovach admitted.
“I thought the key to the game,” Gunther assessed, “was how we played defensively. I thought Khalid Pierce did a heckava job on (Jeremy) Quinlan, ’cause Quinlan’s been scoring for them all year long.
“When you put a big, strong football player on a long, tall, strong football player, I thought Khalid did a really, really nice job to slow him down,” Gunther continued, adding, “And I thought the other part of the game that propelled us was how we rebounded the basketball in the second half (after being outrebounded 16-12 at intermission).
“I thought we defended great, and I thought we rebounded the ball extremely well. Offensively, I thought we were terrible, to be honest with you,” Gunther admitted regarding the Irish’s 16-for-46 (34.7 percent) shooting performance.
But Brookfield (21-4) was not much better, as the Warriors went 16 for 43 (37.2). Jeremy Quinlan connected on 5 of 14 floor shots, but was limited to 2 second-half field goals. Mosora mustered 13 markers, tossing in 2 treys en route to a 3-for-4 second-half shooting performance.
But Brookfield — after committing just 4 first-half miscues — was guilty of a half-dozen turnovers during the 4th frame, erasing what was essentially a wire-to-wire Warriors’ lead: 11-8 at the quarter, 22-21 at halftime, and 29-28 through 3 periods.
Jeremy Quinlan and his twin Jimmy, Mosora, and Collin Harlulich (8 points, team-high 7 rebounds) are the Warriors’ seniors.
Kovach praised, “One of the best groups of people that I have ever been around. So mature, mature beyond their years. Very polite, work-ethic unbelievable. I’m just very proud of them,” Kovach confided, adding, “That group right there in basketball in the last three years they are fifty-four and thirteen, so they’ve had great careers here at Brookfield.”
Notes: Ursuline outrebounded Brookfield, 32-26. ... Jimmy Quinlan was credited with 4 assists and Derrick Dickson 3. ... The Warriors were guilty of 11 turnovers, while the Irish ended up with only 8. ... Kovach said Mosora is matriculating at Youngstown State University, while the other trio of seniors are considering offers and whether to continue basketball, football or baseball at the collegiate level.
OHSAA DIV. III PLAYOFFS
WARREN SECTIONAL SEMIFINALS
URSULINE 8 13 7 18 47
BROOKFIELD 11 11 7 11 40
URSULINE — Strollo 7-2-2-18, McElroy 2-3-3-8, Pierce 2-1-3-5, Jackson 0-0-0-0, Williams 4-5-7-13, Hughs 0-0-0-0, Gunther 1-1-1-3. 3-pt. goals: Strollo 2, McElroy 1. Totals: 16-12-18-47.
BROOKFIELD — Jer. Quinlan 5-1-1-12, Dickson 1-0-2-2, Harkulich 4-0-0-8, Mosora 5-1-2-13, Jim. Quinlan 2-0-0-5, Wallace 0-0-0-0, Tarver 0-0-0-0. 3-pt. goals: Mosora 2, Jer. Quinlan 1, Jim. Quinlan 1. Totals: 17-2-5-40.