YOUNGSTOWN — Survive and advance.
Regardless of the margin of victory, a win is a win in the eyes of Ursuline coach Keith Gunther, who said he was pleased with the way his team played offensively in a 72-70 win Tuesday at home against the 11th-seeded Howland Tigers.
The sixth-seeded Fighting Irish (10-13) will head to Beloit on Friday to face off against third-seeded West Branch, a team they haven’t seen this season.
“At this point in the year, I told our kids before the game, if you win by one, it’s about one thing, it’s about surviving and advancing.” he said. “If you win by one all the way through and you win the state title by one, nobody is going to remember what the scores were.”
“So our goal is to make sure we win a ballgame,” he said. “Now there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to work on tomorrow and Thursday to play West Branch on Friday if we want to be able to win that ballgame.”
Both teams showed off a lot of firepower, but two of Ursuline’s key players came into the game with different perspectives.
One played his final game at home, the other is just starting a bright career.
Daysean Harris, a senior guard, led the Fighting Irish with 15 points, and didn’t want his final game at his home gym to end on a sour note.
“Honestly, it felt like I just had to go hard,” he said. “I didn’t want to end my season early. If you’re a senior, you never want to go out in the first round. You want to keep your season going and going.”
“That was my main focus, was just not letting my season end right here and right now. Just keep going and going, just keep winning. Work hard and all those good things.”
On the flip side of the coin, Terrance Pankey is a freshman for Ursuline and has stepped up in big ways for his team throughout the season. He helped pace the Fighting Irish with 11 points and didn’t let the nerves of his first tournament game get to him.
“It’s pretty much the same, I play at a high level in the offseason so it’s pretty much the same,” he said. “I just come in, do the same thing I do in the offseason.
“I just have to play with the high intensity I played with.”
Gunther was happy with their play.
“I thought they both played excellent offensively,” he said. “I thought they were tough, they made some big plays down the stretch in order for us to win the ballgame.
“Harris got some great drives, made some big free throws, and honestly played some big defense. Terrance for a freshman for his first tournament game in his high school career, to watch his body language and see him not panicking out there is quite unusual for a freshman.”
JaKaylen Irving also had 11 for Ursuline, along with Brady Shannon who pitched in with eight.
Howland (5-18) sees its season come to an end, and graduates Gage Tomko, Angelo Fronzaglio, Cam Durig, Vince Marimpietri and Justin Jones.
Tigers coach Dan Bubon said his seniors played well.
“It’s my fourth year here, so this is the group that was freshman when we came in,” he said. “I thought all five of them played great. Justin Jones had 24 points, that’s his career-high. I thought Cam Durig played a great game and probably rebounded better than he ever has and he shot well. And I thought the three guards all played great defensively, as hard as they could and played their roles.
“I was really proud of our senior group, 199 out of 200 teams in our division are going to lose their last game, but when you do, you want to leave it all out there, and I think our seniors left it all out there.”
Durig had 17 points for the Tigers, and Anthony Massucci contributed with 12.