By VINCE PELUSO — firstname.lastname@example.org
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
Edgewood coach John Bowler stresses the importance of starting and finishing quarters.
So, there was no doubt that he headed to the locker room at halftime on Tuesday night a frustrated coach as he watched his Warriors surrender an 8-1 run to Jefferson to close out the half and turn a 7-point Edgewood lead into a 28-28 tie.
As frustrated as he may have been with the finish to the first half, that’s about as pleased as he was to see his team dominate the second half — particularly the fourth quarter — as the Warriors took out the rival Falcons, 75-57, during a “Red Out” at Edgewood to benefit the American Heart Association.
Edgewood senior Louie Wisnyai was instrumental in closing out the game as he scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the final eight minutes, a quarter the Warriors outscored Jefferson, 27-18.
“The biggest thing, my concerns are starting and finishing quarters,” Bowler said. “We went to a little bit of our zone press and a halfcourt trap (in the fourth quarter) really helped change the momentum of the game.
“We got some steals and easy baskets and before you knew it we were up 10.”
That’s where Wisnyai did his damage — out in transition.
With Jefferson battling back into the game, down 63-55, Wisnyai went on a personal 5-0 run to stretch that lead to 13 with 2:30 remaining in the game.
“I just felt like I had to pick it up,” Wisnyai said. “I felt like I needed to hustle more, I did what I had to do. We all hustled more than we did in the first half. We gave them too many easy buckets in that first half to keep them in the game. (Bowler) got into us at the half and we started hustling more.”
Wisnyai led a balanced attack for Edgewood. Following his 24 points were Connor McLaughlin with 18 (10 of which came in the first half), Matt Fitchet with 10 and Joey Zappitelli with 15 off the bench.
Conversely, Jefferson struggled offensively.
The Falcons shot just 20 of 72 from the field (27.8 percent) and struggled to answer Edgewood’s scoring runs in the second half.
“Offensively we didn’t shoot well, we didn’t make our shots and Edgewood hit their shots,” Jefferson coach Jeremy Huber said. “They’re a good shooting team. We felt like it was an even game (at halftime) and they came out and they won the second half.”
Huber’s group hung tough despite the rough scoring night. Jefferson held a slim 35-34 lead midway through the third before Connor McLaughlin hit a 3 and Edgewood center Fitchet knocked down a triple of his own on the ensuing possession.
“He promised me if he shot a 3, he’d make it,” Bowler said, chuckling at Fitchet’s surprising jumper. “I hate to say it, but he’s been practicing.”
While Fitchet’s 3 was impressive, Bowler was pleased with his performance on 6-foot-7 Jefferson center David Chase, who he limited to six points and five rebounds compared to Fitchet’s 10 and nine.
“I thought Matt really did a good job on him, David’s a good player,” Bowler said.
Edgewood expanded that five-point lead to eight to end the third before Wisnyai and the Warriors closed the game out in the final period.
While Wisnyai led the fourth, Bowler was pleased with the overall balance and unselfishness his team showed offensively.
“I think as the season goes on, you’re going to see that with us,” he said. “These guys are all friends, you’re going to see a different guy leading us every night because they’re all unselfish and whoever is hot is going to get the ball.”
The Falcons were led in scoring by Troy Bloom, Justin Butler and Lucas Hitchcock, all of whom scored 11 points.
Huber was succinct in his summations of what Jefferson needs to do to improve.
“We get in the gym and we get better,” he said. “We were missing some shots. Guys got to get into the gym and work on their shots.”
Wisnyai said the win was big for the Warriors, who are now winners of three consecutive games.
“It’s a huge win,” he said. “Since we dropped those first two early ones then played two teams we felt we should beat. This is a county team and everything that’s between these two schools is huge, and it is any time you beat any of these teams in Ashtabula County.”