Boys Varsity Basketball · Boys Basketball Advances to OHSAA District Championship

Mustangs’ unlikely run continues

No. 11 seed boys squad advances to district final

Sometimes when you’re good, you’re good.

That’s been Strongsville’s boys basketball team, which continued its stunning run through the Elyria Division I District with a convincing 58-40 district-semifinal victory Thursday night over Berea-Midpark.

Even in the closing seconds, with the 11th-seeded Mustangs trying to run out the clock, a flip in the air toward the basket off the hand of senior Bernie McGivern found its way to swish through the net.

Some would call it luck, Strongsville coach John Lipowski feels it’s sometime a lot stronger.

“We believe,” he said. “We’ve learned a lesson that as long as we trust each other and we don’t play Me-ball, good things happen.”

That belief has a Mustang team that many thought would be preparing for its postseason banquet in a district final showdown Saturday night against top-seeded Lorain, which beat fourth-seeded Midview in the other semifinal at Elyria Catholic High School.

It’s also something that helped Strongsville battle through a stretch early in the second half where it couldn’t find the basket, using a mixture of defenses to find a way to put together one more run in the fourth to dismiss the 10th-seeded Titans.

“It’s a lot like what our season has been like,” said McGivern, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “It started out rough, but we’re just used to persevering through things.

“We just wanted to work the ball around more, get more stops to lead to our offense and that’s what we did.”

Early on it looked as if the Mustangs were going to make quick work of Berea-Midpark, leading by as much as 12 with 5 minutes left in the second.

However, they needed a combination of defense and timely rebounding to not allow the Titans to get closer than five points midway through the fourth, before a 17-4 run to close out the contest and keep the magical tourney-run alive for another day.

“It feels good knowing that this is my last time in the tourney,” McGivern said. “I just love this atmosphere. It’s great. I love the tourney.”

The 6-foot guard was key in putting the game away in the fourth, following up a basket from Berea’s Alex Kvak – which cut the lead to 41-36 with four minutes left – with a 3-pointer from the corner and then a drive into the middle of the lane where he was able to absorb the contact and get the ball to the front of the rim where it took a second before dropping in.

In all, McGivern had 10 points in that closing run.

“He’s a competitor,” Lipowski said. “He’s got ice in his veins and he just knows how to ball. That’s it. He believes in his teammates and gets excited about the moment, and he’s just enjoying it like everyone else right now.”

Omari Peek followed up a pair of Shaun Csire free throws with back-to-back baskets, followed by a free throw of his own in that fourth-quarter spurt en route to a 20-point night. The senior also added eight boards, a pair of blocks and four steals to the effort.

Csire added 11 points and six rebounds, while junior forward Kevin Lawler ripped down five of his team-best 12 boards in the fourth.

“When everyone is clicking it’s so much fun,” McGivern added. “It’s not just one guy scoring all the points. Everyone is involved and the whole energy is 1,000 times better.”

It was only fitting, however, that McGivern’s casual one-handed toss from a step over the half-court line as the final horn sounded sank like his other four makes from beyond the arc.

“I don’t know about that,” McGivern joked, when asked if he works on that shot. “I was just trying to run out the clock. I never thought the ball would go in.”

The Titans’ Dwayne Holland finished with eight points and a game-high 14 rebounds, while teammates Omar Siggers and Jordan Cupach each added six.

Lipowski said his team was ready for the opportunity to play for a district title after a season fraught with adversity. And they might have one more chapter to write in their postseason fairy tale.

“Tonight, I’m going to let these boys enjoy this and I’m going to go home and get a good night’s sleep,” he said. “When I wake up, I’ll wake up with Lorain on the mind and we’ll be ready. I saw Lorain and it’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’re excited about it.

“To be an 11-seed and be in a situation to play a 1-seed, we’re going to soak up the moment.”

By: Dan Brown, Post Newspapers

Source: Mustangs’ unlikely run continues