The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

February 22, 2014

Lordstown bedevils Mustangs

Red Devils earn share of title with NAC victory

ORWELL — Both the Lordstown Red Devils and Grand Valley Mustangs had reason to be ready to play in their Northeastern Athletic Conference battle Friday night.

Lordstown needed a win to clinch at least a tie for the Stars Division title. For the Mustangs, is was the last regular season game for their three seniors (Gabe Kovats, Jake Vormelker, and Chan Verhas).

The Red Devils had a little more than GV, though, rallying in the second half for a 70-62 win.

Both teams went at each other aggressively from the onset. In a sign of things to come, Kovats picked up his third foul with 6:19 left in the second quarter, and coupled with the inability to contain Red Devils post Nick Johnson, Lordstown dominated the backboards all the way.

Lordstown hit 28-39 free throws for the game as both teams played at a furious pace. On the other hand, GV hit 18-29, but Lordstown (13-8, 10-4 in NAC) hit 13-18 in the fourth period alone as a trio of Mustangs fouled out.

GV (7-15, 6-9 in NAC), already overpowered to begin with, rallied to within a point, at 43-42 early in the third period, but could not get over the hump.

“I thought we shot our free throws well tonight,” Lordstown coach and former Harbor standout Brian Force said. “We wanted to get the ball into the paint tonight because we knew we had an edge in size. There were a few times we got a little jump shot happy, too. Late in the game, though, once we got into the bonus at the line, we decided to keep attacking the basket, and it paid off.”

Johnson had a double double in the first half alone as he controlled both backboards. His 16 points and 11 caroms, including 5 on the offensive end, kept GV from mounting any rallies.

The Mustangs held an 11-8 lead early in the game, but a 10-2 run sparked by Johnson erased that lead, and a 9-0 run covering the first 2 minutes of the second quarter gave the Red Devils a 12 point edge.

“We talked in the locker room at halftime about trying to limit Johnson on the boards,” Mustang coach Matt Brumit said. “We did a little better in the second half, but we didn’t box out well and we didn’t push him away from the basket like we wanted to. I felt we executed our press well tonight, and Austin Spoon really stepped up working on top in the press, creating some panic for them.

“He loves to play defense, and as he grows up in the game, he will get more chances to take the ball.”

Sophomore Matt Larned, hit all 6 of his shots in the first half as Lordstown concentrated on stopping Vormelker’s efforts to get to the basket. The senior, who reached the 1,000 point mark this week against Edgewood, responded by passing the ball often for hoops, or scoring chances.

“This was Senior Night, and was our last home game,” Vormelker said. “We wanted to go all out because we knew what the game meant to Lordstown. They’re a really good team, they’re tough, and they’re well coached. I felt we could beat them, but it would take a really good game.”

He capped his career on his home floor with 21 points, while Larned added 20. Kovats and Zach Oscar each tallied 7.

Johnson finished with 23 and 18 rebounds as the Red Devils won that battle, too, 45-26. Jacob Jones added 17 points, Preston Sutton tallied 14, including 6-8 from the line in the fourth period.

Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.

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