The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 20, 2014

Falcons enjoy senior moment

Jefferson hits 14-win mark for first time in a decade in besting West Geauga

By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Few and far between are the coaches who do not subscribe to the theory that both, or either, the first 3 minutes of a game and of the second half play a huge role in determining the outcome.

Wednesday night in Falcon Gym, in a celebration of Senior Night for the Falcons, the home heroes got off to a decent start and strung together enough solid play to accoubt for a 68-56 non-conference against West Geauga.

“I was fairly happy with our shooting percentage tonight,” Jefferson coach Steve French said. “I think we came out, though, with a lack of the intensity levels we want, especially defensively, at the start of the game. We had some chances to put the game away early and just didn’t do it.”

With a 32-29 lead at halftime, French saw some improvement in the second half.

“I think James Jackson and David Chase came out and did a great job in the second half,” he said. “We need to be ready and sharper for our game next Wednesday when we host Perry in a tournament matchup. They play hard, provide some tough matchups, and will give us a battle.”

The Wolverines did that as well, but a 9-1 run to open the third stanza opened a double digit lead that the Falcons (14-8, 7-3 in AAC) held for most of the second half.

Chase hit for a short baseline jumper from the right side to open the third period and followed it with another short jumper to get the run started. After Mike Archiable hit the second of 2 free throws for West Geauga (5-16, 2-12 in CVC), James Jackson converted a conventional 3-point play and older brother Joe put back a missed teammate’s effort that forced a Wolverine timeout with 5:51 left in the quarter.

After Micah Young hit the second of his 2 long-range bombs to cut the lead to 41-34, Joe Jackson, who tallied 8 points in that third period, hit a pair of hoops to open the lead back to 45-34, and the closest West Geauga got was 57-49 midway through the fourth period.

“I thought we did some nice things tonight,” West Geauga coach John Cardiero said. “We did give up too many transition layups in the second half, though. We were doing some good things offensively, but we didn’t finish at the hoop when we had good chances. When Jefferson got rebounds, they were off to the races for good shots, and they shot the ball well.”

Keyed defensively by James and Joe Jackson in that third quarter, steals or rebounds allowed Jefferson to get out on fast breaks, and it led to a 27-of-54 effort from the floor.

Chase had his shooting eye in tune by hitting for 21 points on the night to lead all scorers.

Balance was the key as well for the Falcons. With the 2 Jacksons each hitting for 10 points, as did Lucas Hitchcock, aided by 9 more points from freshman Sam Hitchcock off the bench, Jefferson saw 7 players of 11 who played score. A clear indicator, as well, of excellent ball movement, came in the assist totals. Seven Falcons dished for an assist as they totalled 20 dimes on the night on their 27 baskets. Lucas Hitchcock led the way with 6 assists, and starting point guard Sage Cantini, dealing with some tightness in his back, added 5 in his limited action off the bench.

Dealing with the much-taller Falcons most of the night, led by 6-foot-7 Chase and 6-8 Wyatt Weyhmeller inside the paint, the Wolverines didn’t have the same success shooting the ball. They did have their chances, but the Falcons’ imposing size edge alterred some shots. They hit just 36.5 percent of their 52 attempts.

Point guard David Wolfhope hit for 10 first-quarter points for his team, but was held in check the rest of the way and finished with 13. Anthony Insana and Lee Diedrich each added 8, but once the Falcons got their transition game going in the third period, with several court-length passes or coast to coast drives leading to easy hoops, which did go down, try as they might, the Wolverines couldn’t climb back all the way.

The win marks the first time since the 2003-04 season that a Jefferson boys team has won at least 14 games, a nice start to the head coaching efforts for French.

“It’s been 10 years since Jefferson won at least 14 games, so we’ve accomplished a lot,” he said. “There’s still a good bit to do yet, though. We’ll work hard over the next week and get ready for Perry.”

Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.