Poland holds off Niles in final seconds

NILES – Ron Price thought he’d see it again.

Much to the Niles coach’s chagrin, the Red Dragons couldn’t deliver a clutch, last-second shot.

Niles has had a propensity for making up for poor shooting with a well-timed 3, jumper or lay-up.

Tuesday, the Red Dragons couldn’t connect a game winner, like they’ve done a couple of times this season as Poland squeezed out a 45-41 victory at War Memorial Gymnasium.

“We’re working on it,” said Price, whose team shot 16 of 61 from the field and 6 of 31 from 3-point range. “We’re not a good percentage-shooting team, but we’ve hit a lot of timely ones this year. Tonight, we didn’t hit the timely ones. I think we’re coming. I think we’re going to explode on a game coming up. We didn’t score a lot tonight. It was one of those hard-fought battles that you have to go play in the 40s. We had a chance to win and that’s all you can ask. If you’re not shooting well and you still have a chance to win against a good team, that means our ballclub is coming.

“I can’t be prouder of how hard they played. They don’t talk. They don’t say anything to officials or cheap shot. They just play basketball. They bought into that from Day 1.”

Poland’s George Chammas, on the other hand, seemed like an unlikely hero – playing the final 3:38 with four fouls.

With the game tied at 41, Poland’s leading scorer Jacob Wolfe, who shot 2 of 4 from the line, made the first of two foul shots with 26.9 seconds left.

The second shot went to the right side of the basket and Chammas put it back in for a 44-41 advantage.

Chammas led Poland (10-1, 4-1 All-American Conference, American Division) with 10 points and had eight of them in the fourth quarter.

“He was kind of frustrated all night because he had four fouls on him,” Poland coach Ken Grisdale said. “All four fouls were charges. How often do you see four charges in one game, let alone one guy get four charges. It is what it is. He was kind of handcuffed and played kind of tentative. In the end, he decided I got to do what I got to do to help my team.”

All of Poland’s baskets in the second half came by driving to the basket or in the post.

“We went back to an offense we ran 20 years ago where we’re going to open the lane and try to pass and cut,” Grisdale said. “I wanted the penetrator to follow the cutter, which was kind of an escort to the hoop a few times. I think that was beneficial. Jacob Wolfe is normally our forward, but we had him play the 5 (center) a lot so we could get more of the spread and penetration.”

Poland, which shot 16 of 44 from the floor and 4 of 20 from 3-point range, overcame 16 first-half turnovers and last Friday’s loss to archrival Canfield.

“You can’t have empty possessions,” Grisdale said. “For whatever reason, we’re doing that right now. We’ve got to clean that up or we’re going to be in serious trouble.”

Niles (8-5, 3-2) had a shot to tie or cut into the Poland lead after the Chammas putback. The Red Dragons chucked up a 3 with 12 seconds remaining. Niles twice tipped the ball back toward the basket before Wolfe grabbed the rebound (one of 13) and was fouled with 4.7 seconds left. He then made his other free throw of the night.

“It comes down to who can make a few shots in the last minute,” Price said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t. They did.”

Friday, Poland is at Hubbard, while Niles travels to Austintown Fitch.