By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
Things have gone well this school year for a talented group of Brookfield athletes, starting with a 2012 playoff run in football, and it continued Friday night at Garcia Gymnasium against the Conneaut Spartans.
Just as it had when the teams played earlier in the season, it came down to the last few minutes of the game for the Warriors to pull away with a 49-33 win.
“We had a bit of an off night shooting tonight,” Brookfield coach Bill Kovach said. “We also had a number of turnovers that we usually don’t make. Give Conneaut credit for much of both of those items. They played hard all the way. We knew it would be a physical game.”
Brookfield jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead as Jeremy Quinlan tallied a pair of baskets, one from 3-point range, and Derrick Dickson added another. The margin would remain close to that spread the rest of the way until late in the fourth period.
Conneaut did manage to cut the deficit to six points on five different occasions, but the Warriors would either tally a big hoop or force multiple turnovers to stop any Spartan ideas of a comeback.
“Brookfield played a little more zone defense on us tonight than they did the first time we played,” Conneaut coach Tim Tallbacka said. “Basically , we just didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, especially the 3-pointers. Part of that was us, and part of that was them. They are a good team that is 15-4 for good reason.”
Conneaut played solid defense most of the night, but an early stretch to open the game and the last half of the fourth period went well for the Warriors, enabling them to grab that lead and then extend it late after the Spartans (6-13) cut the deficit to 38-32 with just under five minutes left to play on a 3-pointer by Michael Mirando.
The front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity by Nick Blood would be the last point for the Spartans, and a less-than-torrid four of nine free throw effort for Brookfield (15-4) still was enough to expand the lead.
Jeremy Quinlan led his team with 18 points and nine rebounds. Derrick Dickson added 10 and Collin Harkulich added eight points.
Missed shots and missed opportunities were costly for the Spartans. They hit only three of 14 from long range and 33.3 percent overall. Bud Ritari was a force inside by hitting all six of his shots for 12 points.
“I think we played poorly tonight on offense,” Tallbacka said. “Maybe we hesitated a few times, but Brookfield has long arms that alter passing lanes. They’re just too good a team to have an off night shooting against. Missed layups and limited free throw chances cost us, too. We just didn’t seem to have the chemistry we’ve had lately.
“You can’t play just three quarters of defense against a good team like we did. They hurt us early, they hurt us late, but otherwise we were right there with them.”
“We talked early about stopping their 3-point shooting,” Kovach said. “We watched film from our first game, and they can shoot the 3s. I think we did a good job of it. We did well rebounding, too, which we stress. Conneaut was solid, and kept us from doing a lot of what we want to get done. They are a good team.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.