Western Reserve goes down fighting vs. East Canton

Western Reserve players including Cole DeZee and Riley Miller react in the final moments of the Blue Devils’ loss to East Canton on Friday in a Div. IV district final at the Struthers Fieldhouse. (Salem News/Patti Schaeffer)

STRUTHERS–A hot-shooting Western Reserve basketball team couldn’t overcome the fight of East Canton at the Division IV district final at the Struthers Fieldhouse on Friday night.

The seventh-seeded East Canton Hornets won their first district title since 2010 with a 53-48 win. The Hornets advance to the Canton Fieldhouse regional semifinal to face top-ranked Mansfield St. Peter’s on Tuesday.

East Canton improves to 19-7, while Western Reserve finishes the season at 19-6.

After Kade Hilles gave the Blue Devils a 48-47 lead in the closing moments of the game East Canton converted on 5-of-5 free throws in ways to victory.

“We talked about from the beginning this was going to be a game of runs,” Western Reserve coach Patsy Daltorio said. “They have shooters and so do we.

“We came out of the gate and couldn’t miss.”

The Devils started the first quarter scoring the first 12 points with Ryan Demsky knocking down three three-pointers and Cole DeZee one.

DeZee finished with 15 points and Demsky had 14 points to go along with five rebounds.

“It’s the district championship game of course there is going to be a lot of emotion,” Hilles said. “We were hot to start and were feeling good.”

The Hornets got their first points at the 2:30 mark of the first quarter with a pair of free throws from Mitch Mitchell.

“After that we had some turnovers and let them have some second chances to get right back into the game,” Daltorio said.

East Canton than went on a 14-0 run to get right back into the game at 14-12.

The Blue Devils trailed 28-21 going into halftime.

“From their it was a battle,” Daltorio said. “Back and fourth they go up seven at halftime and we make a run getting right back into it at the begging of the third.”

Western Reserve Kade Hilles got the Blue Devils right back in the game to start the third. He caught fire from beyond the arc making a trio of shots from the area to tie the game at 30-30.

The Blue Devils took the lead when Jack Cappabianca fought for a layup inside giving the team a 37-36 lead into the final quarter.

“It would’ve been easy to buckle at the beginning of that second half,” Daltorio said. “This senior class stuck together and and came back to compete with a tough East Canton team.”

The lead changed six times in the final quarter with East Canton converting on big free throws down the stretch.

East Canton was led by Mitch Mitchell with 14 points and Damian Clark with 10 points.

“We came out slow tonight,” East Canton coach Kyle McBride said. “We have to play fast and we didn’t do that early. If you make threes you are going to live and die by it. When you aren’t scoring inside it’s hard to keep up that pace.”

East Canton only allowed five two-point field goals.

“We work on our defense about 45 minutes each night,” McBride said. “Our zone was limiting there outside shots and was creating turnovers.”

Hilles said the memories of this team will last a lifetime.

“It was amazing,” Hilles said. “We’ll be able to take about this forever and go down as one of the best teams in Western Reserve history. After 29 years this is something special.”


• Western Reserve’s lineup featured eight seniors. (Cappabianca, Hilles, Nic Corbett, Demsky, Dom Velasquez, DeZee, Josh Slaton and Marcos Cruz)

“Four four years these seniors have brought us along,” Daltorio said. “Hopefully some of that continues to grow.”

• Thirty-three of Western Reserve’s 48 points came courtesy of the three ball. DeZee had five and Demsky had four.

“En fuego,” Daltorio said. “Ryan and Cole shot the lights out. They are two of the best shooters that have come through this program.”

• East Canton beat Campbell 64-56 in the 2010 Div. III district final at Salem.

• This was Western Reserve’s first district final appearance since 1989, when the Blue Devils advanced to the state semifinals. It was just the program’s third appearance in a district final.

“From a program standpoint this was a huge deal,” Daltorio said. “The support in the community and the buzz has been the best it has been in years. I was getting calls and people telling me they haven’t felt this type of energy in a Western Reserve gym in years.”

• This was Western Reserve assistant coach Jake Zatchok’s first appearance in a district final since 2013 when he was an assistant under Rich Hart at Salem when the Quakers lost to Mooney in the Division II final.

•Cappabianca was a physical force inside for the Blue Devils all night having eight rebounds and he fouled out with a minute remaining in the game.

“Jack does so much for us,” Daltorio said. “Him being out at the end hurt us. He was a football player playing basketball and he has done great things for us all season.”

• Seventh-seeded East Canton wasn’t the only seventh seed to advance to regionals. The Lisbon girls held the same seed in the Mineral Ridge Division IV regional.

EAST CANTON: 7-21-8-17–53

W. RESERVE: 12-9-16-11–48

EAST CANTON SCORING: Damian Clark 5-0-10, Trey Mallonn 3-0-8, Anthony Baad 2-4-9, Joey Knopp 1-4-6, Dallas Moldoran 1-0-2, Mitch Mitchell 3-6-14, Cody Valico 1-2-4. TEAM TOTALS: 16, 10-18: 53.

W. RESERVE SCORING: Ryan Demsky 4-2-14, Kade Hilles 3-3-11, Dom Valasquez 1-0-2, Jack Cappabianca 3-0-6, Cole DeZee 5-0-15, Nic Corbett 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 16, 5-7: 48.

Three-point goals: East Canton 5 (Mallonn 2, Mitchell 2, Baad),Western Reserve 11 (DeZee 5, Demsky 4, Hilles 2).