LEETONIA - Any residual effects from a tough league loss to Springfield on Friday disappeared by the time the second quarter got rolling as East Palestine got back on track with a 72-54 victory over Leetonia on Tuesday.
"That was a tough loss," East Palestine senior Jake DiCello said. "That opened our eyes a lot."
Inter-Tri County League upper tier-leading Springfield defeated East Palestine 46-25. That left the Bulldogs two back of the Tigers with seven league games left.
"It was rough and hard to swallow for us," DiCello said. "But we got back to work."
DiCello turned in 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the win over the Bears. East Palestine is now 6-4 with a home game against United on Friday.
The Bulldogs had to work to pick up that sixth win however. They led 10-6 after a quarter and wondered if the ghosts of the Springfield game would stick around.
"Our shots just weren't falling in that game," DiCello said. "I don't know what happened, but it wasn't good."
The Bulldogs found an excellent source of offense in Austen Reiser in the second quarter. He bagged 14 of his game-high 21 points in that frame. Twelve of those points came by the way of the three in a quarter in which the Bulldogs outscored the Bears 24-10.
"Jake took control and Reiser hit a bunch of shots in the second quarter," East Palestine coach Tom Bingham said. "They got us moving and we were hitting from the outside. It's a heck of a lot easier when you're hitting those shots."
The Bulldogs were also heavily aided by Zak Brockman who had 17 points and nine rebounds.
"He put four quarters together," Bingham said. "He rebounded well, he moved well and that's one of his two best games of the season right there."
Up 36-16 at the half, East Palestine knew that sort of margin wouldn't hold - especially on the road. Leetonia eventually got the deficit down to 10 with 7:01 to go in the fourth, but East Palestine stood firm.
"I told the kids at halftime that they were so explosive offensively that they would make a run," Bingham said. "We just had to absorb that run. Earlier in the year, in a similar situation, that would have been the game that would have gone down to two or three points and we might not have won."
For the Bears (4-7), this season has been a tough pill to swallow. Against Western Reserve on on Dec. 17, senior point guard Nick Altomare broke a wrist in the third quarter. Leetonia coach Mark Taylor said there's a slight chance he might be back in time for the tournament.
"I think Altomare is the best point guard in the county," Taylor said. "He was our MVP last year. He was averaging 22 points and eight assists. When you lose that much out of your lineup that's nearly 40 points per game. On a small scale it is kind of like the Indianapolis Colts losing Peyton Manning for the season."
Most of the Leetonia scoring responsibilities are now thrust on senior post-man Cody Stokes. Stokes had 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists against the Bulldogs. Ian Sevenich added 10 points and six rebounds.
"We have hot and cold streaks for whatever reason," Taylor said. "We were 0 for 10 in shooting threes in the first half and gave away a bunch of offensive rebounds. We just were outhustled and outworked a little bit. We were lethargic, but we picked it up in the second half. It was too little, too late though."
Leetonia is at Western Reserve on Friday.
East Palestine won the jayvee game 39-22. Nate Keylor had 18 points for the Bulldogs. Cody Valentine had nine points for the Bears.
E. PALESTINE: 10-26-11-25-72
EAST PALESTINE SCORING: Tyler Foster 3-0-7, Nate Keylor 1-0-3, Austin Reiser 7-2-21, Jake DiCello 4-8-16, Travis Cope 3-1-7, Zak Brockman 7-3-17, Cody Stewart 0-1-1. TEAM TOTALS: 25-60, 15-22: 72.
LEETONIA SCORING: Brandon Datillio 2-2-7, Ian Sevenich 4-0-10, Cody Stokes 8-5-21, Luke Janci 1-1-3, Ian Stecker 3-0-6, Mike Thorne 1-0-2, Trent Ferry 2-0-5, Alex Maltbie 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 21-54, 8-12: 54.
Three-point goals: East Palestine 6 (Reiser 5, Keylor), Leetonia 4 (Sevenich 2, Datillio, Ferry).