WARREN: They had won back-to-back district titles. They had everyone back from last season. Their two losses this year came against district finalists.
And yet, as the Windham Bombers piled up victories, they never piled up votes.
“These kids had a lot to prove when we came here [to the tournament],” said Windham coach Marty Hill, whose team went unranked in the final Associated Press Division IV poll. “We went undefeated in our league and didn’t get much recognition. [Third-ranked] Bristol got a lot of recognition and deservedly so, but we thought we had a good season and a good team.
“I said, ‘This is the place you can prove it.’ ”
For 27 minutes in Friday’s Division IV district final, they did. It was enough.
Windham solved McDonald’s press and rolled up a 15-point lead with five minutes remaining, then held on for an 87-81 victory at Warren Harding High School.
“We knew they were a great team and we knew they’d make a second-half run,” Windham senior Matt Knight said. “But I didn’t expect them to come back from 15 points down to within two.”
McDonald senior Stephen Politano scored 11 points in the final four minutes and his 3-pointer with just over 30 seconds left cut the deficit to 83-81.
McDonald junior Kenny Greaver then got a steal on the other end, giving the Blue Devils a chance to tie. But Windham sophomore Parker Rickey stole it back, then drove the length of the court for a layup that made it a two-possession game.
“As a coach you’re going ‘Whoa,’ ” Hill said of Rickey’s layup. “But we talked about how, when we have one guy back, we want to attack them.”
Politano then missed an open 3 and Knight sealed the win with two free throws with 6.5 seconds left.
Knight scored 25 points with eight rebounds for Windham (24-2), which will meet Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph in Tuesday’s regional semifinal at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.
Rickey had 24 points, eight rebounds and five steals and Cameron Pozsgai had 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists. It was the eighth district title in 10 years for Windham.
When asked to explain Windham’s success, Knight said, “We grew up watching it. We grew up watching kids cut down the nets. I remember [former Bombers] Cody Apthorpe and Phil Workman, they were up there cutting the nets down and we really looked up to them.
“Hopefully the kids will look up to us and do the same in the future.”
Politano, who returned to the lineup two weeks ago after missing three weeks with mono, scored 20 points with seven rebounds and five assists for McDonald (21-5). Christian Rusinowski had 23 points and seven rebounds and Matt Seitz finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
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