The Press Newspaper
Eastwood boys’ basketball captains Jason Faykosh, Mark Schult and Clay Rolf took special satisfaction in beating Genoa a second time this season, 55-51, on Feb. 16.
The win not only clinched the Suburban Lakes League title for the Eagles, it also allowed them to break out the scissors with their teammates after the game.
"Winning the league is something we've always wanted since we were little," said Faykosh, a senior point guard. "Something every kid wants to do is cut down the nets."
Rolf, a 6-6 junior center who scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Monday's win over Genoa, concurred with Faykosh.
"It means a lot to me and the team and to Eastwood, to win an SLL championship in basketball," Rolf said. "Especially the way we did it, against Genoa at home in front of a great crowd."
The win secured an outright league crown for the Eagles, who improved to 15-2 and 12-0 in the SLL. Eastwood's boys had not won an SLL title since the 2002-03 season, but the Eagles, the league coaches' unanimous preseason favorite, came through under second-year coach Todd Henline.
Henline said his team has been on a mission since last season, when it finished second in the league behind Genoa after finishing 5-5 to end the season.
"We've been talking about taking care of business and finishing what we started and tackling goals that we set out to tackle," Henline said. "They've taken care of business."
Schult, a 6-2 senior wing who missed the first two games of the season because of a torn meniscus in his right knee, said it was a "great feeling" to capture the SLL championship.
"It was just a team effort," he said. "Without every one of our guys, it wouldn't have happened. Everybody wants to experience it. It was great beating Genoa to clinch it, especially since they beat us in football and we got back at them. And they beat us last year in basketball, so it's a great feeling."
The Eagles, however, still have some unfinished business. No Eastwood boys’ squad has ever gone unbeaten in SLL play. Its lone losses this season are to Napoleon, by eight points in the season opener, and by 13 at Margaretta.
Eastwood hosted Gibsonburg on Friday and has a home date with non-league foe Springfield on Feb. 21 before closing out the regular season Feb. 27 at Otsego.
"We've got the players focused on that, finishing the season," Henline said. "No matter what league, it's tough to go undefeated in the league, especially when you play every team twice. We set some goals at the beginning of the year, and one was to win an SLL championship.
"We refocused our goals when we started 9-0 in the league. We wanted to go undefeated. The third goal is to win sectional and district championships."
Rolf, who is averaging 15.5 points and 11.7 rebounds a game, said finishing 14-0 in the SLL would "mean a lot."
"For Eastwood and our community, to go undefeated in the SLL and win a championship, that would be amazing," Rolf said. "Words can't describe how that would feel. That's history in the making."
Eastwood's players also want to erase the disappointment they felt in last year's sectional tournament, when the Eagles were eliminated by Clyde in the first round.
The Eagles face Norwalk in the Division II sectional March 3 at Sandusky High School. The winner will play either Bellevue or Sandusky Perkins.
"One goal was to win the league and another was to go on a deep tournament run," Faykosh said. "I think everybody wants to get it done. We haven't been real consistent this season. A couple games before Genoa, we were struggling. Hopefully we can start playing more consistent."
Schult said Eastwood needs to stick to an old mantra: one game at a time.
"We have to work hard in practice and give it our best every game out," Schult said. "I think we can still peak. We played well against Genoa, but at times this season it seems we haven't all been there. Now we're starting to get into it more and the tournament's coming up, and it's a great time."