Jeff Brewer


COVENTRY TWP.: The Coventry Comets said farewell to their basketball home of nearly 50 years with an impressive 97-63 sectional championship win Friday over Marlington.



After a nip-and-tuck first quarter, the Comets used a second-quarter 13-0 run to take control and then blew it wide open, hitting 11 straight shots from the floor to start the second half.



“We’ve got a senior-laden team and with this being the last [varsity] game in this gym they didn’t want to go out a loser,” said Coventry coach Lynn Wess, while watching his team’s net-cutting ceremony. “They got the message at halftime.”



The celebration marked a second straight Portage Trail Conference Metro title, a 20-win season, and the final game in the gym all rolled into one.



Coventry (20-3) will meet either Alliance or Buchtel in a Division II district semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Canton Field House.



Seniors Shane Sturm (23 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and Conner Wess (15 points, four assists), son of the coach, paced a withering Coventry attack.



“As I turned down the road to the gym, I kind of started to tear up a little knowing it was my last time driving to this gym,” Conner Wess said. “I’m going to miss playing here a lot.”



In what is now the district’s junior high building, the Comets’ cozy home, with a stage at one end, was constructed in 1967.



“We wanted it to be a memorable game, and I think it would have been more memorable if we had just scored three more points,” said Sturm, a 6-foot-5 forward.



Leading 41-29 at the break, the Comets exploded for 35 points in the third quarter and led 76-46 heading to the final eight minutes.



“Our defense has been key the whole season,” Lynn Wess said. “When we play defense, we get out and run, and get some transition baskets.”



The Comets forced the Dukes into 19 turnovers and had just three miscues themselves.



Coventry unleashed a fast-break attack and ball-hawking defense in the third quarter. Sturm scored 10 points during a 27-8 blitz, which saw the Comets stick 11 consecutive field-goal attempts and finish 14-of-18 in the quarter.



The first unit retired after hitting 20-of-27 shots from the floor in the second half. Conner Wess flipped a pass off the backboard and Sturm’s acrobatic ­tip-in capped it before sitting with just over four minutes to go.



“This group of players has been together for so long, and our chemistry is so good,” Sturm said. “We can’t let this win go to our heads.”



Burly senior Bryce Hargrove and junior point guard Dusty Burkhart (seven assists) each had 12 points and senior DuVale Patterson nine for the Comets.



“I’m so happy that I got to play my last year in this gym instead of the new high school just because this is where it started,” Conner Wess said. “Our goal was to make it exciting for Coventry.”



Marlington (8-15), which had leads of 11-8 and 14-11, sank 9-of-17 shots, but trailed 23-22 after eight minutes. The Dukes then had seven points and seven turnovers in the second quarter.



Juniors Brock Begue (13 points), Andrew Brady (12) and Brock Himmelheber (10) were top scorers for Marlington.



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