By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
Interscholastic athletics is a major part of the educational process at every school. When the St. John Heralds traveled to Conneaut Friday night for a battle in Garcia Gymnasium the learning process for both teams was huge.
Unfortunately for the Heralds, so was the Spartans’ margin of victory, as they dominated from the opening tip for a 68-17 non-conference victory.
“I was really proud of how our seniors supported the underclassmen in the game after they came out,” Conneaut coach Tim Tallbacka said.
His starters only played the first four and a half minutes in opening a 14-1 lead on the freshman-laden Heralds, leaving little doubt as to the final outcome.
After that fast start, the rest of the game was a learning effort for both teams, and the educational opportunities were many.
“Our support for the junior varsity players, getting a lot more playing time tonight, shows how unselfish the seniors really are,” Tallbacka said. “Our record doesn’t show it, but we’ve played some pretty darn good teams, and our upcoming schedule is against some pretty fair teams as well.”
Seventeen Spartans got into the box score for Tallbacka. Justin Myers came in and hit four 3-pointers to lead the way with 12 points, and Levi Stewart did solid work inside while scoring 11 and grabbing five rebounds to go with three steals and two assists. Alex Gerdes scored eight, Nick Root dished out six assists and Nick Blood got it started with nine points in the first four minutes. His six offensive rebounds kept the ball in Spartan hands, and they hit 43.5 percent for the game from the floor.
Defense also was solid as Conneaut (3-8) forced 35 Herald turnovers while losing it only nine times.
“I was able to get all 17 kids quality minutes tonight,” Tallbacka said. “We knew they are young, so we wanted to work on some things. Usually we play man defense , but we went to zone in the second half and it was good for the kids to play.”
“We’re young, and we need to keep remembering that,” St. John coach Ryan Harco said. “The score could have been a lot worse, but Coach Tallbacka runs a class program. Give us a few years and we’ll be a lot better.”
Zach Taylor led the Heralds (1-12, 1-9 in LEL) with five points, and Dane Gustafson and Paul Calloway each added four.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.