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  #7-Ranked Boardman Opens Tourney Play Saturday  
  February 27, 2020 Edition  
     Head Coach Pat Birch: “If we expect to make a deep tournament run then
      we must find another gear, because learning on the spot isn’t an option.”
      BY GREG GULAS
      Boardman News Sports
      bnews@zoominternet.net
      Head coach Pat Birch’s Boardman Spartans boys’ basketball team has had a memorable two-year run, going 41-5 with a program record 21 regular season wins - they finished 21-1 overall – this year.
      With back to back 20-win campaigns, several individual milestones achieved and new standards set, Birch said his No. 3 seeded Spartans must now kick it up a notch in the Canton district tournament if they expect to advance.
      The Division I sectional tournament gets underway this week with five semi-final games slated for Wednesday, February 26 at home team sites.
      The Green Bulldogs – Boardman’s only loss this season and the team that eliminated them in last year’s district semi-finals – are the top seed in this year’s Canton district tourney and they will play the winner of the Dover (No. 9 seed) at Massillon Perry (No. 8 seed) game.
      Canton McKinley is the No. 2 seed and they will play the winner of the No. 10 Massillon Jackson at No. 7 Massillon Washington contest.
      The Spartans will host the winner of Wednesday’s No. 11 Alliance at No. 6 Wooster game at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the BHS gymnasium.
      The Spartans will put their 11-game win streak on the line and Birch said his team is excited to get the post-season underway.
      “If we expect to make a deep tournament run then we must find another gear because learning on the spot isn’t an option,” Birch said. “We’ll get a chance to see the Alliance-Wooster game and both teams are very talented. On paper, Wooster might be the favorite but we’ll prepare for both teams.”
      According to Birch, playing at home has its benefits.
      “It helps when you don’t have to travel,” he added.
      “Two years ago, we had to go to Wooster and travel takes a toll on everyone. At home, the crowds are great and that helps as well.”
      Senior standout Derrick Andersen scored a career-high 38 points against Ursuline on February 18 to become just the seventh boy’s player and 18th overall (either boys or girls) to reach 1,000 points for a career.
      He currently has 1,025 points during his three seasons as a Spartan.
      “It’s very special and a great feeling to reach 1,000 points for my career, but this could not have been possible without God, my teammates and my coaches,” Anderson stated. “Everybody played a huge part, which is why it is so special.”
      Birch said he has a starting ‘6’ and is expected open tourney play with Anderson (23.0 points per game, 4.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists), Ethan Andersen (10.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg), Connor Miller (2.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg) and Zach Ryan (1.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg) on the hardwood, with record-setting three-point artist Tommy Fryda (10.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.0 steals) or Daeone Martin (7.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg) rotating as the fifth starter.
      “Fryda and Martin are both quality starters,” Birch noted. “We need to be at our best and not look ahead because you’ll find yourself on the outside looking in. Staying out of foul trouble will be the key.”
      While some feel that Boardman should have been a higher seed, Fryda isn’t complaining about their No. #3 seeding.
      “I think it’s a fair spot that we’re in and the match-ups we’re going to be playing,” said Fryda, the school’s all-time single season three-point shooter. “It’s been surreal and a great season so far. We’ll need to keep our composure and set the tone of the game at the outset.”
      Ethan Andersen is looking for the Spartans to make some noise come tournament time.
      “We just need to be prepared and have the right mindset,” he added. “We need to work as a team, be strong defensively and keep rolling with the momentum that we have built right now.”
      Chemistry has been a big factor in their success, Andersen stated.
      “We’ve been playing together so long and our seniors have been a great group,” he noted. “The last couple of years that we’ve played together we really jelled as a group. We’ll take it game by game, one at a time and not look ahead. As long as we maintain our focus then we should be alright.”
      Unselfish and playing as a team has been the key according to Derrick Anderson.
      “Sticking together has a team had paid off,” he said. “We must stick to the game plan, believe in our abilities and continue to work hard.”
      For Birch, being tested late in the season has helped his team refocus.
      “We wanted to be tested and the last three regular season games did just that,” Birch stated. “We made adjustments, needed to make stops and that was good because ultimately, we’ll need to play a full 32 minutes on Saturday. All 15 players on our roster know their roles and when they’ve gotten their chance they’ve performed admirably.”
      Rounding out Birch’s tournament roster will be Trey DePietro (3.3 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Charlie Davis (2.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg), Andrew Clark (1.2 ppg, 0.8 rpg), Joey Zahran (0.9 ppg, 0.6 rpg) Spencer Smith (0.7 ppg, 0.1 rpg), Jim Goske (0.4 ppg, 0.2 rpg), Ty Ventresco (0.4 ppg, 0.6 rpg) and Marco Stilliana (0.1 ppg, 0.0 rpg).
      For Birch and his squad, a 66-55 winner in their final game of the season against Austintown Fitch, it’s now about fine tuning all areas of their game heading into the tournament.
      “It’s about trying to get better at all of the little things,” Birch noted. “Our goal is to be the best version of ourselves heading into Saturday night. We aren’t going to change who we are in terms of our athletic ability or size, but we do need to be the best version of who we are beginning with sectionals.”
       GAME NOTES…Prior to Senior Night against the Falcons last Friday, Birch invited back members of the 1970-71 team that went 16-2 during the regular season, 23-3 overall and advanced to the state Final Four in Columbus. One member from that team, guard Jay Powell, who went on to star at Davidson College (along with teammate Greg Dunn) and would later earn his MA in Sports Administration from Ohio University, addressed the team prior to the game. “These kids have restored such enthusiasm in the community,” Powell said, adding “The gym is packed so thank you and congratulations to this team. Athletics bring people together and when people come to the games it’s their way of saying thank you for your hard work and preparation. My advice to them was to take it one game at a time, enjoy the experience and just keep playing like they have all season. My hope is to see them playing in Columbus in a couple weeks.”
 
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