September 23, 2014

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Boys district basketball: St. Edward pressure wears down Midview

BRECKSVILLE — Midview knew it was going to have to face its biggest fear during Saturday night’s Division I district final against St. Edward. The Middies, making the school’s first appearance in a district final, wondered if they’d be able to handle the Eagles’ incessant ball pressure, including traps from every which way?

For about 10 minutes, the answer was yes. For the remaining 22 minutes, it was an emphatic no.

St. Edward harassed Midview into 23 turnovers, including nine in the pivotal second quarter, and ran away from the Middies in a 72-47 victory. St. Edward will play Shaker Heights, a 78-66 winner Saturday over Garfield Heights, in a regional semifinal Wednesday night at Cleveland State University.

“We tried everything we could against their pressure,” Midview coach Troy DiFranco said. “I wish it didn’t have to end, but we ran into a good team that played an excellent game. Hats off to them.”

Midview (19-4) withstood St. Edward’s initial push — the Eagles scored the game’s first eight points, including an alley-oop dunk by Myles Hamilton on a fast break after a turnover. But the Middies managed to keep it within five, 12-7, after the first, and cut it to 14-11 after free throws by Justin Morris and a basket from Patrick Linn in the second quarter.

But St. Edward re-asserted itself quickly as Hamilton scored 10 straight points — the final eight on four straight possessions and all set up by Middies turnovers. The Eagles scored 12 points off Midview giveaways in the first half, and led 33-20.

“They press you the whole time,” said Midview senior Riley Moore, who along with Linn battled foul trouble and finished with eight points. “We worked all week on it. I thought we did a pretty good job of breaking the press, but we just made some careless passes down the stretch. We just couldn’t catch back up.”

St. Edward coach Eric Flannery said the crucial stretch came after halftime.

Midview went to a trapping defense of its own at the start of the half, but it did little to slow down the Eagles’ offensive attack. Mike Newton scored eight in the first four minutes of the quarter as St. Edward scored 11 of the first 13 points of the quarter, extinguishing any hope Midview held of a comeback.

“I thought Midview did a good job of staving off that first run, and we thought it was still a game at halftime,” Flannery said. “We came out with a lot of intensity and pressure in the first four minutes of the third quarter and pulled away.

“I don’t think Midview has seen what we have, and we used that to our advantage. No disrespect to Midview, they played hard. But the constant pressure we gave was the difference. It has nothing to do with coaching, we just have better players and were able to wear them down.”

That talent gap is what irked DiFranco, who extensively credited St. Edward’s players for their efforts and performances but took issue that Midview — a public school — had to play St. Edward — a private school and perennial state championship contender.

“It’s a shame in a way — the OHSAA is doing an injustice to kids like ours,” DiFranco said. “When you have teams playing by different rules, with a nine-county all-star team … I don’t blame it on Coach Flannery or the St. Edward kids, they do a great job. But it’s not an even playing field.

“I don’t want that to come across like I’m upset with St. Edward. I give them all the credit in the world. I just think the setup in Ohio basketball is ridiculous.”

Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or hammond_joel@yahoo.com.