POLAND — Having already played twice this season as conference foes, there was little uncertainty between Poland and Lakeview.
The two teams knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses well and both previous matchups were decided by just nine combined points, both close Poland victories.
When the two met for a third time Tuesday night in the first round of the playoffs, early on at least, it looked as though Lakeview had figured out Poland — as it took a four-point lead into halftime.
But Poland wasn’t going to go quietly as it used a dominant third quarter to retake the lead and pull away to win 61-48 and advance to the sectional bracket final.
“We knew and we preached in practice that if we were going to win that it had to start on the defensive end of the floor,” said Poland head coach Eric Fender. “We got up and put some ball pressure on them and they finally started missing a few shots. They hit some shots in the first half where we had hands in their faces and for those we’re just going to say ‘good job.’
“I really think putting some ball pressure on them full court wore them out a little bit and we got some transition buckets starting in the second half that helped open up the lead a little bit too.”
The first quarter was an offensive clinic for both teams.
Poland hit its first five shots from the floor and six of its first seven, and even though Lakeview only hit two of its first five shots, it still found itself leading at the end of the quarter thanks to 11 points by Nate Fox.
After Lakeview took a four-point lead at the break, Poland exploded to open the third quarter — using a 12-0 run to seize control.
“When we run our offense, we can get what we want and that’s every day in practice,” said Lakeview head coach Mark Novotny. “These guys have been here for four years and I’ve got seven seniors, so we know what to do and when we’re clicking, you saw what can happen. In the second half, they got a little physical with us and we missed a couple. It happens fast, and then it just so happened as we were missing, they started making.”
Leading scorer Ross Dedo was at the forefront of Poland’s surge, scoring 15 of his game-high 24 points in the second half.
Dedo said Poland was hesitant offensively in the first half, especially in the second quarter — setting for three’s and long jumpers instead of utilizing their size advantage and getting into the lane and attacking the basket.
“My three was hitting a little bit, but that’s my best ability, is getting to the hole and finishing strong,” Dedo said.
For the game, both teams showcased their offensive efficiency as Poland shot 56.1 percent from the field, while Lakeview shot 44.4 percent.
“(Lakeview) does a nice job of running (its) offense — it’s a lot of flare screens, a lot of slips and things that are read-and-react,” Fender said. “It’s very difficult sometimes to have kids nowadays pick things up like that. It’s not like they’re running set after set and you can walk through it and say they’re doing this — it’s completely read-and-react. We just wanted them to understand that communication is key (against that).”
With the win, Poland advances as the No. 7 seed to face No. 10 seed Streetsboro Friday night, which beat Salem 68-64 in overtime.
Lakeview’s season comes to an end as it finishes with an 8-15 overall record.
“I’m proud of my guys — they never gave up,” Novotny said. “They did everything I ever asked. They showed up every day to practice, worked hard and came out in every game and worked hard. I know it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I’m still proud of them.”
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