By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
Windham head coach Cody Apthorpe knew it could be lurking around any corner.
His Bombers pushed it down throughout a valiant first half.
Then, the third quarter.
Warren JFK’s offensive barrage cascaded into the Struthers High School gymnasium like an inescapable avalanche.
In an absolute blur, the second-seeded Eagles scored the first 14 points of the third quarter and that was just the start of what became a 30-point eight-minute burst that proved to be decisive in JFK’s 83-47 Division IV district semifinal win over the Bombers on Monday.
The Eagles’ 30-9 third-quarter scoring advantage flipped a competitive game (37-30 JFK lead at halftime) into a lopsided 67-39 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“We were concerned about their ability to score in bunches coming into the game,” said Apthorpe, whose Bombers finished the season with a 15-9 record in his first year as head coach. “They can score in a lethal capacity and they can go on runs like few teams do. Once they get into their rhythm, they never stop gaining momentum and they take every single one of your mistakes and make you pay for them. It is hard to stop.”
It overshadowed a solid first half for the Bombers, who went toe to toe with the Eagles. Even after JFK (20-5) built a 27-17 lead by the end of the first quarter, the Bombers battled back to trail just 35-30 late in the second quarter.
The first-half effort came at a price, though, for a Bombers team that lacked the same kind of depth as the Eagles.
“I thoguht we spent a lot of energy in the first half to hang with them — and that is not just the use of the physical energy, but also mentally,” Apthorpe said. “To constantly have to attack their pressing defense, that weighs on a player’s fatigue, too. I think our decision making in the first quarter versus our decision making in the third quarter was a paradigm shift in the wrong way. (JFK) just fed off of our mistakes, and that is why they are so good.”
Windham’s shooting numbers are evidence.
In the first half, Windham shot 14-of-31 from the floor and had six turnovers. In the second half, the Bombers connected on 8-of-28 field goals and had 12 turnovers — more than half coming in the third quarter while the Eagle’s offense was soaring (20-of-34 shooting in the third quarter).
Michael Condoleon, who scored a game-high 27 points, led the third-quarter charge for JFK with 12 points in the third quarter, with Nico Ciminero scoring nine in the quarter. Those two, combining for 21 third-quarter points, outscored Windham’s entire second-half point total (17 points).
The game marked the end of the careers for Windham’s three seniors: Lucas Churchill, Chase Eye and Zack Turk.
All three had strong moments at important moments on Monday, as well as four-year careers that Apthorpe said he felt would have an impact even after they graduate.
“They are leaders, and they did a really good job of keeping things together through some adversity,” Apthorpe said. “They set great examples for our underclassmen.”
Eye finished with 11 points and 1,136 for his career, Turk scored eight points and had a game-high nine rebounds, while Churchill had seven assists — many coming in the first half as the Bombers’ routinely beat JFK’s full-court press.
“It was deeply emotional to realize that this was their last game,” Apthorpe said. “To be honest, I had a hard time keeping my emotions in check on the sideline and it was a delayed decision to take them out of the game. On the surface, with it being the fourth quarter and us losing by 30, you would think it would be easy to know it is time to take them out. But you see the kind of passion they play with and what they have given to the program and it took me longer to face the reality that it was their last game. I am absolutely proud of them and all they have done.”
Condoleon’s 27 points included 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range, while also adding four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Ciminero finished with 14 points, five assists and three steals. JFK had two other players in double-digits, with Jaden Rishel scoring 16 points and Nick Ryan scoring 10 to go along with his seven rebounds.
JFK advances to Friday’s district championship at Struthers High School. The Eagles will face the winner of Tuesday’s Lowellville-Middlefield Cardinal matchup.
Windham was led in scoring by sophomore Carlos Bruton, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half. Jack Eye added eight points for the Bombers.
DIVISION IV DISTRICT SEMIFINAL
WARREN JFK 83, WINDHAM 47
(At Struthers High School)
WINDHAM (47) — Lucas Churchill 1 1-2 3; Carlos Bruton 7 0-0 15; Jack Eye 4 0-0 8; Chase Eye 5 1-2 11; Zack Turk 4 0-0 8; Cam Hardrick 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 2-4 47.
WARREN JFK (83) — Michael Condoleon 11 0-0 27; Noah Elser 1 0-1 2; Devonte Taylor 3 1-1 7; Nico Ciminero 6 0-0 14; Nick Ryan 4 2-2 10; Henry Phillips 2 0-0 5; Matt Wagner 1 0-0 2; Jaden Rishel 6 1-2 16. Totals 34 4-6 83.
WARREN JFK 27-10-30-16—83
Three-Point Goals — Windham (1-18): Bruton 1. Warren JFK (11-28): Condoleon 5, Rishel 3, Ciminero 2, Phillips 1.
Total Rebounds — Windham, 27-25.
Total Assists — Warren JFK, 19-13.
Total Turnovers — Warren JFK, 20-18.
Total Fouls — Warren JFK, 9-8.
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