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Published: Thursday, 3/10/2005

Scott looks to refocus for undefeated Solon

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Fresh off his team's two big upsets over City League rivals Libbey and St. John's Jesuit in the district boys basketball tournament, Scott coach Joe Suboticki had one major objective Monday - bringing his Bulldogs back down to Earth.

Suboticki gave himself and his players about 24 hours to soak up the excitement of having stunned fifth-ranked St. John's 64-62 on Sunday before turning his and their attention to tonight's 6:15 regional semifinal at the University of Toledo against fourth-ranked Solon (24-0).

Admittedly, Monday's practice wasn't the best, according to Suboticki, who used an animal kingdom analogy to illustrate his concern.

"If you think about a lion in the jungle who has just eaten," Suboticki said, "the lion is laying down like a fat cat. Prey goes by, and he'll just let it go because he's full.

"But if you put that same lion out in the field for two weeks and he hasn't eaten, that's a different story. He's hungry and he's going to go after that prey."

Being that Scott had stalked CL powers St. John's and Libbey in recent years without success, losing nine straight to the Titans and four in a row to the Cowboys, the district conquests were a satisfying meal.

Now the trick is getting refocused to tackle another exceptional team.

"We have to get that hunger back," Suboticki said. "Whether or not we can re-create that [inspired play versus Libbey and St. John's] is the big question. But our guys should be pretty confident after what they just accomplished."

Solon's Comets, champions of the Western Reserve Conference's North Division, feature the Northeast Ohio district player of the year in 6-9 sophomore center Dallas Lauderdale, who averages 18.1 points, 13.2 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots.

Lauderdale, the nephew of former Cleveland Cavalier Jim Chones, has a good short game inside 10 feet, and is a ferocious and frequent dunker.

Lauderdale's inside strength is balanced by two Solon football players: 6-0 quarterback and senior guard Jordan Krantz, a deadly 3-pointer shooter who averages 16.1 points, and Steve Valentino, a 6-0 junior point guard (8 ppg, 5 apg).

Solon is playing in its first regional in more than 20 years, and coach Todd VanReeth got it here with tournament wins over Brecksville-Broadview Heights (43-29), Parma Normandy (72-57), Midpark (57-55) and Cleveland St. Ignatius (58-50).

"They're pretty good," said Suboticki, who is coaching in his 13th regional but first since 1991. "After watching them [on tape], they're better than I expected. They're for real. Their guards are really good, they shoot it pretty well, and they're tough.

"Other than with Lauderdale, I think we match up pretty good. I hope to be able to press them, and we're going to try that at some point. On offense, the key is just to play our normal game against their man-to-man."

Scott - which advanced with wins over Springfield (74-47), Central Catholic (67-51), Libbey (75-64) and St. John's - is led by 6-4 senior guard-forward Darrion Griffin (15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds), 5-9 senior point guard James Walker (14.1 points) and 6-3 senior forward Kenny Byrd (10.5 points, 8.4 rebounds).

Tonight's second semifinal at Savage Hall pits eighth-ranked Mansfield Senior (23-1) against Lakewood St. Edward (17-6) at 8 p.m. Both have been regional regulars at Savage Hall recently.

Suboticki was an interim head coach for more than half the season when 25-0 Barberton won its Class AAA (big school) state title in 1976. He was head coach at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary when the Irish won a Class AA state title in 1984 and lost in the state semis in '84 and '87. He moved on to Portsmouth for four seasons, winning the Division II state crown in 1988.

This is Scott's first trip to the regionals since losing to Libbey in 2000.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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