WARREN — John F. Kennedy lost three of its first four games to start the season, but head coach Mark Komlanc wasn’t worried.
It took some growing pains at first, but the Eagles are starting to come together at the right time of year after Tuesday night’s 68-55 win over a formidable Lowellville squad.
“This happens every year,” Komlanc said. “When people freak out at the beginning of the year, I just tell them to calm down. The kids are going to catch on to what we’re trying to do. There was no doubt in my mind this group was going to start clicking.”
Time heals all — and all the Eagles needed was game minutes and practice time to build the chemistry on the court that they’re showing now.
“That just comes with practice,” said Michael Condoleon. “We go in every day and we work hard.”
Tuesday’s win was also the return of JFK’s “Bench Mob.” When healthy, the Eagles like to play 8-10 players deep, but in recent weeks players like Hayden Wait and Pat Valent have been dealing with nagging injuries, while Jaden Rishel had an illness.
Tuesday night was the first time since the team’s win over Lakeview at the end of January that JFK has had its full complement of players.
“We had everybody back where we could use our ‘Bench Mob,’” Komlanc said. “Nico (Ciminero), Antwan (Brown), Nick (Ryan) and Pat (Valent) came off the bench and they just instantly changed the game. They’ve bought into their roles and that may be our biggest change from the beginning of the year.”
For the Rockets, head coach Matt Olson said Tuesday’s game was a good test for his team with the postseason right around the corner.
“We know if we get past some of those early games in the tournament, we’re going to see a team like JFK and we’re going to have to hold our composure to stay on top,” Olson said. “I thought they were a little more physical than us tonight — they were a little tougher than us and it showed.”
The second quarter was when the Eagles did their damage and pulled away.
JFK’s offense scored 25 points, shooting 62.5 percent from the floor during the period. Condoleon was the catalyst as he hit all three of his three-pointers and scored half of his game-total 18 points.
“It was really just teammates driving and finding me,” Condoleon said. “I didn’t make those shots on my own. Like, Jaden (Rishel) drove on one and kicked it to the corner and found me. From there, I was just feeling it.”
Lowellville changed up its defenses several times throughout the game to try to slow down JFK’s offense — switching between half court man-to-man, a three-quarter court zone, and a halfcourt 2-3 and 3-2 zone — but to no avail.
“They’re a good shooting team, so you have to pick your battles,” Olson said. “We tried to play the percentages in the second half, hope they missed some outside shots. Because we were down 10 points, we didn’t want to give up any layups. They started to hit a few, so we had to change it up again. You’ve got to pick your poison (with them).”
Olson lamented his team’s performance offensively, as the Rockets shot just 23-for-60 or 38.3 percent from the floor.
Vinny Ballone was the lone bright spot for Lowellville, as he finished with 28 points to carry the Rockets’ offense.
“We couldn’t get into a rhythm, I don’t know,” Olson said. “We missed a lot of shots — first, second and third-chance rebounds killed us too.”
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