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Published: Wednesday, 2/25/2009

Irish luck continues

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Entering the City League boys basketball playoffs, top-seeded Waite had defeated every opponent in league play.

Every one except Central Catholic.

And, for the second time in 11 nights, the fourth-seeded Fighting Irish upended the Indians, this time 58-47 in last night's CL playoff semifinals at Savage Arena.

The Irish (13-6), picked in the preseason to place eighth in the league, has a shot at winning the school's first City championship since 1968 at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.


St. John s Tim Simmons (32) and Start s Anthony Henderson (22) battle for a rebound. Simmons had eight points for St. John s Henderson scored 20 points for Start.
<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/video.gif><b><font color=red> VIDEO</b></font color=red>: <a href="/assets/mov/TO65130225.MOV" target="_blank "><b>BCSN video highlights from the City League boys semifinals</b><a> St. John s Tim Simmons (32) and Start s Anthony Henderson (22) battle for a rebound. Simmons had eight points for St. John s Henderson scored 20 points for Start. <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/graphics/icons/video.gif><b><font color=red> VIDEO</b></font color=red>: <a href="/assets/mov/TO65130225.MOV" target="_blank "><b>BCSN video highlights from the City League boys semifinals</b><a>
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Ending that 41-year drought will require a win over preseason CL favorite St. John's Jesuit (14-5), which has captured 11 City crowns since Central's last triumph.

The Titans advanced with a 62-46 victory over Start in last night's second semifinal here.

Central's 6-2 senior Bruce Huntley was the difference in the first game, scoring 20 of his game-high 26 points after halftime. His team had built a 10-point lead at the break but had to fight off Waite's comeback bid.

"I don't know if it's a match-up thing or what," first-year Central coach Jim Welling said of having Waite's number. "I just think our guys just kept getting better and better each week and I think, in this game, it just really came down to toughness.

"We got some rebounds when we shouldn't have and a couple put-backs when we shouldn't have. Bruce is a good player, and he's very unselfish. He did a lot of things for his teammates and, tonight, he had to take over a little bit. That was great to see."

The Indians (14-4), who fell behind early in their 69-46 pounding at Central on Feb. 13, got off to another poor start. They hit just six of 26 first-half shots (1-for-12 on 3-pointers) and trailed 25-15 at halftime.

One problem was that Waite's 6-3 standout senior forward Darius Glover picked the wrong night to have his worst game of the season. He drew two early fouls, sat the final 9:30 of the half, and finished with just six points and three rebounds, far below his averages of 19 and nine, respectively.

But, as the second half progressed, Waite melted a 37-22 late third-quarter Irish lead down to three points.

An 18-6 Indians surge got them within 43-40 on a 3-pointer from sophomore Ke-Sean Harris (14 points) with 3:32 remaining. That was as close as Waite would get, as Huntley scored nine points in the final 2:47, including a 5-for-6 effort at the foul line.

"It wasn't just me," Huntley said. "I didn't score all of those points. It's team basketball and there's no 'I' in team. We just had to maintain our composure [during Waite's rally] and stick to our game plan, and that's what we did."

Freshman Tony Mays added 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Irish, who were 21 of 42 from the field, 16 of 25 from the line, and outrebounded the Indians 36-22.

"Central is a disciplined team. They take care of the ball, and they battle you every possession," Waite coach Dave Pitsenbarger said. "We need to take some notes on that ourselves.

"We had a horrible start, got in some foul trouble, and we didn't execute on offense on a consistent basis. Huntley broke us down defensively, and was able to dish off or finish in the paint all night long."

Waite, which got 12 points and seven rebounds from sophomore Dishon Harris, was 20 of 55 from the field and three of eight from the line.

In the second semifinal, Start (13-6) clicked early, opening with an 8-0 run. The Spartans went up 17-7 on Marcus Gaines' transition layup with 46 seconds left in the first quarter.

But St. John's, which missed its first six 3-point tries, nailed the next two, launching a 23-6 surge to close the half up 30-23.

"We were taking all perimeter shots, so we tried to get some inside-outside stuff going," Titans coach Ed Heintschel said. "I thought we got the tempo going a little bit, too, and started running a little bit. That really helped."

That momentum bridged halftime as the Titans opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run to break things open. Start got no closer than nine thereafter.

Senior guard Michael Taylor paced the Titans with 20 points, and junior guard Jay Springs had 16.

"In the beginning we just came out soft," Taylor said. "I don't know what it was, but we picked it up a little bit. Coach told us to keep our heads up, and that's what we did in the second quarter. And, we kept it going in the second half."

Tim Simmons had eight points and nine rebounds for the Titans.

Devin Russell, Start's 6-9 center, had nine first-quarter points but did not score during the final three quarters. Junior guard Anthony Henderson topped Start with 20 points, and Gaines added 11.

St. John's was 26 of 53 from the field, seven of 11 from the line and outrebounded Start 37-26. The Spartans were 20 of 50 from the field and five of 11 at the line.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461.



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