By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
A lot of teams have had problems dealing with a talented Cornerstone Christian Patriot squad this season. The same can be said for the Edgewood Warriors. In the second of back-to-back nights on the hardwood, illness and the sheer talent of the Patriots was enough to overcome the Warriors, 83-61 in non-conference action Saturday night at Edgewood.
“Back to back nights have been hard for us all season,” Edgewood coach John Bowler said. “Connor was really sick today, I’ve been really sick, and Andrew (Konczal) is just getting over being sick. I give a lot of credit to Connor for how well he played tonight despite spending much of today in bed. He really tried hard.”
The Patriots (13-3) have gotten to this point with a load of talent, and they used it to secure this win with a six-point run to close out the first half with an 11-point lead after the Warriors had battled to within five points at 37-32.
The fifth of five first half 3-pointers from R. J. Spaller, after Greg Oliver split a pair of free throws, and a steal on the ensuing inbounds pass by Isaiah McQueen for a layup at the buzzer had the Warriors suddenly on their heels.
Another run midway through the third period cemented a lead that never was less than 11 points the rest of the way.
Five players doing the scoring for the Patriots paced the effort, and the quickness of the Cornerstone guards, slowed down the Warrior backcourt duo of McLaughlin and Dylan McCaleb.
In spite of a size edge inside, Cornerstone could not stifle the efforts of Andrew Konczal, who was effective in leading Edgewood (10-5).
Konczal scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds, and Louie Wisnyai and Matt Fitchet added 12 points each to the cause. It wasn’t nearly enough.
“We had three key points in mind tonight to work on,” Cornerstone coach Dan Selle said. “First, we knew we had to stop their 3-point shooters. Secondly, we wanted to create the tempo for the game. When we can do that, we do better than we do playing in a half court game. Thirdly, we needed to rebound, and we did a good job of that tonight.”
Cornerstone carried the game in that area, 40-21. Daniel Bennett was huge inside with nine rebounds, Tyrez Shephard grabbed eight. Both had four on the offensive ledger, creating second shots that went in often.
The Patriots shot 50 percent from the floor on the night.
Cornerstone’s scoring came from both outside, with Spaller’s seven 3-pointers leading the way while Shephard hit for 10 of his points in the second half. McQueen had 12 of his 18 in the first half in support of Spaller, and there just wasn’t enough energy in the Warrior tanks to pull back into the game.
“Andrew (Konczal) played really big for us tonight,” Bowler said. “He’s been scoring well lately by taking the ball to the hoop. His game has changed this year from mostly a perimeter shooter to a presence inside. We have to admit that Cornerstone was just bigger and quicker than we are. That just wasn’t a good recipe for us tonight to deal with.”
The Warriors will have a chance to kick the flu bug a bit more as they prepare for a home battle with the Chardon Hilltoppers next Tuesday.
“I gave the boys a bit of a tongue lashing at halftime,” Selle said. “We gave up too many layup attempts. Had they been falling like I know they could have, this could well have been a tougher game for us. The boys responded well, though.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.