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Struthers knocks off Girard

STRUTHERS – Friday night’s Northeast-8 Conference game between the Girard Indians and Struthers Wildcats might not have been for first place in the league, but it was still vital in determining the top team in the league standings and gaining momentum heading into tournaments.

The Wildcats played like a league leader with a dominating 68-39 victory over the Indians, placing four players in double-digit scoring. It was also a bit of revenge for a disappointing 53-50 loss to the Indians earlier in the year.

“We have to handle each game that is in front of us,” Wildcats coach Michael Wernicki stated. “They beat us the last time we played them, and if we sit here and start talking about if we do this or that and the other thing, we are going to lose to them again. If you take your mind off this game in any way, shape, or form, you’re going to lose. We know what our path is, and we just have to do what we need to do each night.”

With the victory, the Wildcats improved to 13-5 overall on the year and 11-2 in the NE-8. With Jefferson knocking off Poland Friday night, and the Wildcats still having one more league game at Lakeview next Friday night, the Wildcats have an opportunity to grab a share of the league crown with the Falcons.

“Congratulations to Jefferson, they earned it and they are a tremendous basketball team. Hopefully, we are fortunate enough to get a share. It’s never easy playing at Lakeview. That is a hard place to play, and they are good at home, so we have our hands full, “ Wernicki said.

For the Indians, they fall to 11-8 on the season and 8-6 in the NE-8. However, the Indians are 3-5 in their last eight games.

“We’re just not playing very well right now,” Indians coach Craig Hannon admitted. “That’s on us as a coaching staff to figure that out. We have been falling behind early in games and we got it taken to us tonight. Credit to them. They really attacked us and played with a purpose that we didn’t match.”

Following a quick 1-0 lead by the Indians, the Wildcats rolled out to a 16-9 lead at the close of the first period. They would double up the Indians 26-13 at the 4:52 mark of the second quarter following a three by junior guard Chance Laczko. They would go on to hold a 28-17 lead at the intermission.

The Wildcats came out on fire to start the second half as they went on a 6-2 run just over a minute into the second half following a put-back bucket by Nick Delgratta. Following a no-look, behind his back pass from Delgratta to Ronnie Leonard at the 1:37 mark of the third period, the Wildcats had built a 20-point, 47-27 lead. They would go on to hold a 52-31 lead at the end of the quarter when Leonard threw up an all-net three at the buzzer.

“I thought our defensive effort was really good,” Wernicki remarked. “We focused on two things. Our defensive effort and trying to rebound as well as possible. And I think we did a decent job of that, and it allowed us to get some easy baskets.”

The Wildcats would build a game-high 32-point, 64-32 lead midway through the final period before the Indians finished with a 7-4 run to close the game to reach the final 29-point margin.

“We have a lot of work to do. The good news is that we still have two more games and a bunch of practices to help prepare for the tournament. We as a coaching staff need to figure out a way to put our kids in a better position to be successful,” Hannon said.

The Wildcats will be back on the court Saturday night when they host the Hudson Explorers in non-conference action. The Indians will try to bounce back when they host McDonald Monday night in their next contest.

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