Confident Ursuline ready for regional semi

YOUNGSTOWN – Keith Gunther probably thought he had the wrong game film when he sat down to study the Creston Norwayne Bobcats this week.

The Ursuline Fighting Irish basketball coach didn’t realize that film footage of Norwayne’s 35-34 district final win over Orrville would look more like a football game than a basketball contest.

It was a game in which the officials let them play, as they say. Just six free throws were attempted despite the fact both teams went at it in a physical nature.

“It was probably the most physical game I’ve seen in a long time,” Gunther said. “There were only six free throws, but there should have been a lot more. There were no calls made. It was a brutal game.”

Gunther expects a different style of officiating when the Irish and Bobcats meet in a Division III regional semifinal today at 8 p.m. at the Canton Fieldhouse. He doesn’t anticipate another score with both teams finishing in the 30s.

“For the most part, their games are in 50s and lower 60s,” Gunther said of the 23-3 Bobcats. “It’s not like they play a slow-down style. They don’t get it up and down like we do. They’re selective with their shots and hit the boards hard.”

The Irish (17-8) weren’t involved in games nearly as physical as what he saw on film of Norwayne-Orrville in district wins over Newton Falls and Girard. The Irish are built around speed and quickness to the basket, along with a strong outside-shooting game.

That doesn’t mean Ursuline can’t hang with more physical teams.

“Physically, we’re pretty good along those lines,” Gunther said. “We have some guys that are big and some football guys. We’re longer and more athletic than what they are, and size-wise, we’re right there with them. They’re senior oriented, and we only have two seniors. Our kids are younger, but as far as talent, I think it will be a pretty even game.”

Gunther exhibited a quiet confidence in the district.

“I’m confident in our abilities and what we can do,” Gunther said. “I feel the same way about this game coming up. If we defend and hit the glass the way we can, we’ll have a good chance. If we slow the other team down and play offensively like we have, I think we have a great chance of reaching the regional final.”

The Bobcats are led in scoring by Zack Weinman and Justin Prentiss. As a team Norwayne doesn’t possess the outside shooting prowess of Ursuline.

“They’re looking to get inside and use their power and strength, which is what they did against Orrville,” Gunther said. “They’ll pound it in and try to get it to their bigs. Then they kick it out and shoot the 3 ball and do a good job of offensive rebounding.”

The Irish are bolstered by a lineup with scoring options across the board. Mark Hughes had a 30-point effort against Newton Falls in the district semifinals. Sophomore David Collins picked up the scoring pace against Girard with 22 points. Greg Parella is an outside threat, and Paul Jackson is capable of adding offense inside.

“I absolutely love it because you can’t key on one kid because we have three guards that can do a whole lot of different things,” Gunther said. “If you key on one or two, it’s usually the third guy getting it going for us. It’s a nice problem to have when you have three guys that can put the ball in the bucket.”

LaBrae, the district’s participant in last year’s regional, made it to the state tournament. It won’t be as easy this year due to the presence in the other semifinal of Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph, considered one of the elite teams in any division in the state.

“Everyone knows how good they are,” Gunther said of St. Joseph. “I told the kids, let’s make sure we take care of business and let the chips fall where they may. We hope to get that opportunity to play (St. Joseph) on Saturday.”