By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
Beating a team a third time in a season after two tight games in regular-season action is no easy chore. The West Geauga Wolverines knew that coming into their district semifinal matchup with the Perry Pirates, and the Pirates seemed to have the upper hand for the first half of their game at Lakeside Gymnasium in Division II action Friday night.
Games are played in two halves, though, and the Wolverines put the clamps on the Pirates in the third period to complete their trifecta of wins against their Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division rivals, 54-41.
“We talked at halftime about playing with more intensity,” West Geauga coach John Cardiero said. “I didn’t think we had what we needed in the first period, it picked up a little in the second, and then in the third, after I reiterated to the kids at halftime that we had to pick it up to win, we had much better intensity at both ends of the floor.”
The Wolverines took a 30-29 edge early in the third period on a 3-pointer by Devon Zurcher, and after Cale Burdyshaw split a pair of free throws with 4:30 left to play, Noah Bidar went coast to coast for a layup which regained the lead for the Wolverines (16-7). Burdyshaw hit a 3-pointer of his own to regain the led for the Pirates (11-13), but at that point, the air seemed to go dead as Mario Formichelli hit four straight free throws to key an 8-1 run to close the quarter.
“We were able to find some nice looks inside for Mario in the second half, and Nick Rakich came up big for us inside as well. We hit the boards harder, got good looks, and were able to make some shots,” Cardiero said.
Formichelli, a 6-foot-8 senior, tallied eight of his 16 points in the third period. Rakich added five of his 11 in the fourth, and Bidar was able to get to the hole several times in scoring 16 points as well.
“We wanted to put more emphasis on going low to the basket,” Perry coach Al Iacofano said. “Then we got two kids into foul trouble and didn’t effectively make the adjustments we needed to. They gave us a couple new wrinkles in the second half, so we tried a couple other things, but they adjusted, too, and we didn’t make the shots we had to have.”
Burdyshaw led the Pirates with 18 points before fouling out with just more than three minutes to play.
After an 11-of-21 effort from the floor in the first half in taking a 27-22 lead at intermission, the second half saw the ball avoiding the nets far too frequently as Perry finished up with just four second-half baskets for 15 of 42 on the night. Ian Illig was the only other Pirate with more than five points, scoring seven of his eight in the first half.
Perry was not able to drive to the basket in the second half like they did in the first half, the jumpers were not going in, and the Pirates season featuring eight seniors came to a screeching halt.
“I’m just so proud of this group of seniors,” Iacofano said. “They have played so hard. We were close in all of our games all season, a testiment to how competitive the kids were. Every game got the community involved in supporting us, and that’s something the kids can be very proud of.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.