The Boardman Bugle

Boardman basketball season wrap-up

Chris Mediate, Editor-in-Chief

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For many years now, Boardman’s basketball program has struggled to regain any real relevance in the area. But this season went much different than what anyone could have imagined.


To begin a pretty awe-inspiring story of two teams, allow me to first explain how much the girls’ and boys’ teams differed. The boys were returning a huge chunk of their team from last year, having six seniors. The girls on the other hand lost six seniors, including their leading scorer, Krista Johnson.


In previous years, Head Coach Ronald Moschella made the girls basketball team a perennial powerhouse. When he stepped down, many wondered if they would ever regain the prominence they once had. New Head Coach, Jeff Hammerton, was inheriting a rebuilding project.


But the girls have managed to stay competitive over the years, however, with losing a big group of experience it was widely expected that another rebuilding year was on the horizon. The season started more on the rocky side, going 2-5 in seven games that included a four-game losing skid. Going into Christmas break, it seemed as though the team would be proving expectations right.


“I just told them to forget about the first seven games,” said Hammerton. “We’re 0-0 now.”


Hammerton raved about the positivity the team was still bringing. “They had great attitudes and bought into improvement.”


The team would catch a hot hand and ring off six straight wins. As far as the rest of the season goes, it was the perfect illustration of a team effort.


From the coaching, to the player leadership, to the efforts from the younger players, all were key ingredients. As previously stated, the trio of Lauren Gabrielle, Lauren Pavlansky and Jenna Vivo, and the leadership they showed was insurmountably huge.


But not only did they lead with their voices, they lead on the court. All three averaged double figures in scoring and were tops in most of the team’s statistical categories.


Riding a 12-10 record into the state tournament, the Lady Spartans beat Warren G. Harding and then upset number one-seeded Fitch (who had sweeped Boardman in the regular season) to win their second straight sectional championship. This would catapult them to the district semifinal game, which was played against two-seeded Stow.


Unfortunately, despite a tightly contested first half, the girls would fall to Stow 60-31.


Swinging over to the boys, the team was coming off of yet another below average season. For this program, it was an all too familiar feeling as it had gone a combined 26-85 over the last five seasons. But contrary to popular belief, it seemed the team was starting to trend upward over the last two years despite losing records.


Nine-win and eight-win seasons were actually showing a steady progress. Rewind to that nine-win campaign and the team was 9-59 over the last three seasons prior. The improvement was quiet, but always present.


If you asked the team, they saw the visions of mass success long before anyone else did.


The Spartans opened up the year making a statement by upsetting the highly touted Warren G. Harding Raiders, who at the time were considered state contenders. Down by 13 with three minutes to go, Boardman came roaring back to top them 51-52 at home.


The victory certainly turned some heads. Although, the head turning didn’t stop there as the team went 9-1 in the first 10 games, besting the likes of Poland, Steubenville, Fitch, East and Mooney.


But wait, what’s going on? Boardman had been at the bottom of the food chain for awhile now. What changed?


Well, that question was handled easily by Head Coach Pat Birch. “The seniors and returning letterman,” said Birch. “The experience factor was huge.”


The boys played a gritty brand of basketball, being aggressive and relentless on defense and relatively efficient on the offensive end.


The Spartans flat-out dominated this area, losing just three games to local teams (Harding, Canfield, Mooney) and went 10-2 in the AAC. The boys finished the regular season at 18-4, which is the best mark the team has seen in the last 30 years.


But they didn’t stop there, beating Louisville to win them a sectional championship and advance to districts for the first time in 16 years. The boys would fall short, though, losing to Lake 62-52. The old saying “all good things must come to an end” became very real, especially for the team’s seniors.


“The support from the student body and community was awesome all year,” said Birch in closing. “I told my guys all the time how fortunate they were for the level of excitement and support they showed.


Neither team had finished the way they wanted, but there is certainly a silver lining. The Boardman basketball program, as a whole, shattered every expectation as well as every obstacle that came their way this season.


No game seemed too far out of reach and there was no such thing as “odds” for them. They truly believed in their coaches, themselves, and most importantly, each other.


No, neither the girls’ or boys’ teams hoisted any trophies or cut down any nets. But what they did show, is that the future is bright. The season in its entirety was a very positive leap for the program in the right direction. Between coaching and young talent, Boardman basketball is here to stay for the long term.  


And that is worth more than any trophy.


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Boardman High School
Boardman basketball season wrap-up