Strong final stretch keys Irish past JFK
By Greg Gulas
A year ago at this time, Ursuline High was 1-3 heading into the Christmas break and arching for a team identity heading into the New Year.
After defeating the Warren JFK Eagles, 64-38 at the Ursuline Gymnasium Thursday, the Irish will head into the break this year with a 3-1 mark knowing that year’s version of Irish basketball can only get better.
Devonte Jenkins scored 27 points and hauled in 14 rebounds while the Irish outscored the Eagles, 21-3 in fourth quarter for their second straight win.
“When Devonte [Jenkins] turned his game up a notch tonight, the game really changed for us,” Ursuline coach Keith Gunther said. “We got a little complacent defensively in the second and third periods and didn’t exactly play smart basketball.
“We’re an alright team right now but we do have room for improvement. If we can continue that improvement the rest of the season then we can be a pretty good team come tournament time.”
Jenkins scored 11 of his game-high 27 points in the opening period and the Irish reeled off nine of the first 11 points en route to a 19-13 advantage.
The Eagles’ Michael Fredericka hit a 3 at 6:47 of the second period to cut the Ursuline lead to 22-18. But two triples by Ryan Strollo keyed a 13-4 run by the Irish as they built a 35-22 halftime advantage.
Strollo finished with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
“Ursuline is big, very athletic and quite disciplined,” Eagles acting coach Chad Phillips said. “We tried to slow it down and make them play our game and it worked for us a little while.
“Devonte [Jenkins] is super talented and a load for any team to guard. [Ryan] Strollo on the other hand extends the defense with his outside shooting and Khiree [Gregory], with his assists, finds the open man for easy buckets.”
Five points by Raitwan Gaston helped the Eagles cut the Ursuline margin to 43-35 after three periods, but the Irish went on a 16-0 run to start the final quarter, sending JFK (1-5) to its third consecutive loss.
“I knew that I had to give a good effort tonight if we expected to win,” Jenkins said. “After our loss to Cardinal Mooney last Friday night we had a team meeting the following the day, discussing what we had to do the rest of the way if we expected to get better.
“I was just feeling it tonight, feeling like they couldn’t stop me when I had the ball down low. I just took advantage of what they were giving me and it worked out for me all night.”