Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

Lowellville Lady Rockets Poised To Make Run Toward State


The thing that is most different about the 2011-12 Lowellville Girls basketball squad is that they will make a tournament run while having everyone healthy.  The Rockets, ignored by the polls until recent weeks, are playing with a sense of confidence not often found at the high school level.  Tony Matisi is the driving force behind a program that has defied the “small school” image.  Matisi has built a program that keeps winning and deserves credit for his accomplishments.

Those accomplishments are plentiful.  Matisi has gold stars on his resume through a 14-year tenure that has seen his teams record 20 wins in seven of their last eight seasons.  He has recently retired as a Youngstown State maintenance employee, but says that he plans on doing this basketball gig a few more years.  Who wouldn’t?  This is a program that has succeeded for so long that girls coming up through the system wait for their chance to be a part of something positive and contagious.

Everyone knows about the firepower that this team possesses. Taylor Hvisdak, Emily Carlson, and Ashley Moore are all new members into the 1,000 point club, and all three Lady Rockets achieved the fete this season.  Rachel Durbin, Kaye Solak, and Madison Opritza have all played a role in this magical season too.

“From a coaching standpoint, when we look at a team we will be playing, we see one really good player and four role players”, said Matisi.  “When teams look at us, we have three thousand-point scorers on the floor at the same time, and the other two can score too.”


The one thing, besides injuries, that has hampered the Rockets on recent playoff runs has been decisive height disadvantages.  Matisi commented on how this team will handle a size mismatch problem this season.

“The size mismatches were a fear until we played a very good Canfield team.  We were afraid of their big girl dominating the middle.  The job that Rachel [Durbin] did and the defense we used against that sort of player worked well.  The confidence we took away from that game cannot be measured and will help us as we get deeper in the playoffs.”

In that Canfield game, the Rockets had a lead as big as 24, in the third quarter.  They eventually won by much less, but Matisi took his foot off of the gas and Canfield’s Coach Pavlansky used some pressure to force uptempo while the Rockets milked the clock.


To call a coach a ‘Class Act’ is one of the highest compliments you could pay them.  Matisi defines what a class act is.  Countless times all season with the game usually decided at halftime, the Rocket coach has emptied the bench for at least the fourth quarter, not only to avoid injury and to get the younger players some quality minutes, but because he isn’t out to make any team look bad.

Matisi talked about how last year’s run was cut short by injury.  “Last year at the district semis, Taylor went down and wasn’t coming back.  We were scrambling around trying to fix something right at that moment, and that is hard to do.  It effects the girls on the floor more than it does the coaches on the bench.  I just want the chance to go as deep into this thing as we can while healthy.  If we get beat, so be it, as long as we lose with everyone able to play.”

It is a hard level of success to continually attain, but Matisi has done it.  In fact, he has probably done it better since 2000 than any other coach in the Mahoning Valley.  He loves the fact that the younger girls will watch the upperclassmen on the floor and wait their turn.  It is a natural feeder system that he refines every year.  It’s nice to have talent, but it is nicer when good talent gets superb coaching.

Team Davis Beats Team Boney 52-49 In Game of Hope


Team Davis got by Team Boney 52-49 in 2012 Annual Game of Hope.  Matt Morrone (above) was named the game MVP.  Morrone hit a three and a layup early and also had a couple of breakaway baskets in the second half.

Not to be outdone by his Lowellville counterpart, Frank Lellio (below), Morrone’s team pulled out the win.  Lellio was sensational in defeat for Team Boney.


Congratulations to Tony Spano as all of his hard work merited a nice turnout for a very worthwhile cause.  “If it wasn’t for the volunteers, the board, the community, our partners and sponsors, this event would never be successful.”

At the half, Ed DiGregorio and Dom Roselli were inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Former players were there to present DiGregorio and Mrs. Roselli, representing her late husband, with kind words and keepsakes.

All-in-all, the Game of Hope was a lot of fun and look for broadcast times on MYTV later this week with Chad Krispinsky and Bob Hannon providing the call and the beautiful Lauren Lidvig doing the field reporting.

The Game of Hope Returns To Beeghly Center Saturday


Foundation of the Mahoning Valley is presenting “The Game of Hope Charity Basketball Classic” on Saturday, February 4 at 4:30 p.m. at YSU’s Beeghly Center, proudly sponsored by Chesapeake Energy. The game, which raises money for chronically/terminally ill children so that they may have the experience generally afforded other healthy children, is open to the public with tickets $6 each.

This year, Jim Davis (Austintown Township Trustee & Board of Trustee-Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley) and Stan Boney (WYTV Evening News Anchor) will match coaching strategy as honorary head coaches for their respective teams. As in past years, both teams are comprised of local celebrities, dignitaries and media members from the area with the game set to be taped and broadcast on various cable outlets throughout Northeast Ohio on Sunday, Feb. 26.  Check  the official website for channel listings.

Those comprising “Team Boney” include Frank J. Lellio Jr, (Owner, Rossi Brothers & Lellio Funeral Home), Joe Schiavoni (State Senate-33rd district of Ohio), John Gocala Jr,. (Boardman Police Department), Ken Johnson (GM-V & M Star), Mary DeGenaro (Judge-Seventh District Court of Appeals), Nick Graham (Assistant Prosecutor-City of Warren), Pete Esparra (HM Partners-2012 Nominate A Player Honoree), Ray Housteau (The Amazing Race, Season 7), Stacie Cepin (Teacher/Basketball Coach-Austintown Local Schools), Timmy Bowser (YSU Student) & Tom Seifert (Minutemen Press).

Dr. Cynthia Anderson, President of Youngstown State University will Assist Team Boney, while Frank Frattaroli, director of marketing for the area Belleria Pizza chain will serve as Team Owner.


Team Davis consists of Amy Nilsson (Teacher-Howland Local Schools), Andrew Scarmack (Teacher-Austintown Local Schools), Bob Wolleben (CEO-Trumbull Memorial Hospital), Chris Jaskiewicz (COO-Evets Oil and Gas Construction), Deana Shade-Housteau (The Amazing Race, Season 7), Dorothy Bowers-Collins (Director-Eastern Gateway Community College), George Dimos (Owner-TanFastic Tanning Salon), Jeff Ryznar (VP-Phizzle, Inc), Matt Morrone (Assistant Athletic Director-YSU Athletics), and Shawn Jordan (Sports Reporter-My Valley Sports).

Assisting Team Davis as Assistant coach will be Dr. Laura Meeks, President of Eastern Gateway Community College with Rey Esparra, Director of Client Advocacy for GBS Computers serving as team owner.

Bob Hannon, CEO of the United Way of Youngstown/Mahoning Valley once again call the play-by-play with Chad Krispinsky, Sports Anchor, My Valley Sports and Lauran Lindvig (WFMJ Anchor) adding color commentary, while Chrissy Patrick from MIX 98.9 Morning Show will serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the 4rd straight year.

Pastor Michael Harrison from United Baptist Church in Youngstown, Ohio and Sarah Turner-National Recording Artist will preside over pre-game ceremonies.  In addition, the Hope Foundation will honor our Charter Class of Hall of Fame inductees – two highly recognizable names from YSU that are equated success in their respective sports. The charter class includes the late Dom Rosselli, former YSU men’s basketball and baseball coach and Ed DiGregorio, former YSU women’s basketball coach.

Other activities planned include performance by the Cheer Time Athletics Dance Teams; $5 for $50 half-court shot and visits from members of the 910th Airlift Reserve Stations, Ronald McDonald, and mascots for all in attendance to enjoy. The event will also have its own concession stand during the event with part of the proceeds earmarked for the Game of Hope.

The event is proudly sponsored by television stations WKBN 27 First News & FOX Youngstown; WYTV & MyYTV; radio stations 95.9 KISS, 93.3 “THE WOLF” and News Radio 570 WKBN; UAW Locals 1112 & 1714; Refresh Dental, NEOEA (North Eastern Ohio Education Association); Time Warner Cable and the Lamar Advertising Company.

** Photos Courtesy of Ron Stevens

YSU Women Get Big Road Win, 55-47, At Ohio University


The Youngstown State women’s basketball team went on a 20-5 run early in the second half and hung on to defeat Ohio, 55-47, on Friday evening at the Convocation Center.  The Penguins hit 10 of their first 13 shots in the second half and outshot the Bobcats 43.5 percent to 31.1 percent in the game.  YSU improves to 5-4 while Ohio drops to 3-5. The Penguins defeated the Bobcats for the third straight time, and YSU has now won four straight road games for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

YSU’s Heidi Schlegel (above) scored a game-high and team-high 21 points, and both Liz Hornberger and Schlegel hit three triples apiece.  Brandi Brown was held to eight points, ending a stretch of 29 straight games with at least 10 points.  Tenishia Benson had 14 points to lead Ohio.

Youngstown State built a 24-22 lead at halftime, and the Penguins took a 44-29 lead after back-to-back 3-pointers from Schlegel.  Macey Nortey then hit a lay-up to make the score 46-32 with 10:51 left, but YSU cooled down and had to rely on its defense for the rest of the period.  Ohio scored the next seven points to cut the margin to 46-39 on Benson’s back-door basket with 8:19 left.  Schlegel ended a four-and-a-half minute scoring drought for YSU with two free-throws at the 6:20 mark, and Ohio’s first points in four minutes made the score 48-42.


Youngstown State played a sluggish first half in which they committed 13 turnovers and saw two of its top three scorers go scoreless, but the Penguins led 24-22 at the break. YSU was 6-for-13 from 3-point range in the opening period, but it was just 3-for-12 inside the arc.

Schlegel scored all seven of her first-half points in-a-row for YSU, and her 3-pointer at the 6:23 mark gave YSU an 18-14 advantage. That sparked a 9-0 run for the Penguins, which was capped by another Hornberger 3-pointer that made the score 24-16 with 3:42 remaining.

Ohio’s last lead came at 14-13 with 7:25 remaining in the first half, and YSU led for all but 17 seconds in the second half.

After an eight-day break for finals week, Youngstown State will wrap-up its MAC tour with a game at Akron on Dec. 18. Tipoff against the Zips is set for 2 p.m.

YSU Men’s Basketball To Be On ESPN Networks Twice in 2011-12 Season


The Youngstown State men’s basketball team will have two games nationally televised on the ESPN family of networks and will also featured as the Horizon League Networks Game of the Week in late February, the Horizon League announced as part of its 35-game 2011-12 television package.

The Penguins game against Milwaukee, schedule for Jan. 20 at the Beeghly Center, is slated for a national broadcast ESPNU or

The Guins home contest against two-time national runners-up Butler on Feb. 9 has been selected for to be on

“Having two of our games broadcast on ESPNU or is outstanding national exposure for our basketball team,” Head Coach Jerry Slocum said. “The Horizon League continues to produce a tremendous brand of men’s basketball and I’m glad we have the opportunity to showcase our program.”

The Penguins regular-season and home finale against Detroit on Feb. 25 has been picked as the Horizon League Network’s Game of the Week.

In a scheduling note, the Guins’ game at Valparaiso has been moved to Jan. 13 and the contest at Butler has been pushed back to Jan. 15 due to Butler’s nationally-televised game on ESPNU against Cleveland State on Jan. 13.

YSU Hoops Coach Slocum To Be On ESPNews


 Youngstown State men’s basketball Head Coach Jerry Slocum will be a featured guest today on SportsCenter at 4:30 p.m. on ESPNews.

Slocum has been a highly-requested guest of the national sports media recently due to the Guins being the last team to defeat Butler, who is playing in its second straight national championship game.

Last Saturday at the Final Four in Houston, Texas, Slocum was a guest on FoxSports Radio’s “Game Time Show” with Anthony Gargano, Lincoln Kennedy and Jeff Goodman.

3-on-3 Tournament Proves Many Have-A-Heart


The 2nd Annual Ella Rose Solak Memorial Scholarship 3-on-3 Tournament was held Saturday at Lowellville High School.  The 3-on-3 tournament raises money for the Ella Rose Solak Memorial Scholarship Fund, which is awarded to a Lowellville High School Senior who will be attending college.  Ivan and Gina Solak, the parents of Ella, are very active and dedicated to this worthwhile cause.

“Last year, as an English project, Taylor Hvisdak, Emily Carlson, and Ashley Moore, came up with the tournament for my daughter, Ella, who at the time was going through surgeries for heart problems.  It wasn’t meant to be a memorial, but she didn’t make it to the tournament”, explained an emotional Ivan Solak (below).  “We are carrying it on, using it as a scholarship opportunity for the kids, and it worked out really nice.  We had great turnouts both this year and last year.  We want to see how many years we can keep it going.”


Ella was born on July 14, 2008 with a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic right heart syndrome.  Throughout a period of nine months, Ella had to undergo a number of surgeries with each one bringing more complications.  Unfortunately, this disease took her life on March 23, 2010.  Ella was only 20 months old when she passed away.  Sometimes tragedy hits close to home.  In this case it did, two doors down to be exact.  The Solak’s are terrific people who did all they could while Ella was alive and the tragedy they had to endure never goes away.


The turnout on this cold Spring day was phenomenal.  The limit for teams was set at 50 and people were turned away because accommodations could not handle more than the set limit.  The brackets for the 3-on-3 format tournament are set by gender and grade and a 19 & over group.  There is a round robin to determine bracket seedings and then a single elimination tournament.

Solak went on to say, “The support we have received from the community since Ella was born can’t be described in words.  People here have really helped us, and this tournament helps us too.  It is amazing how many people volunteer to help out.  Everyone from 7th and 8th grade volunteers to 60 year old volunteers who are unselfishly giving their time.”


Have-A-Heart is the name of the foundation that has been set up.  If you would like to make a contribution to the fund, you can visit the Huntington Bank Branch in Lowellville. Sometimes tragedy inspires people to do good for others.  This particular group of people have endured enough stress and persevered to the point of helping someone else.  It is an unselfish cause that proves when bad things happen to good people, they remain good, if not better.

Butler Gains More Respect For Horizon League Ousting #1 Seed Pitt


The Horizon League usually gets just one team into the NCAA’s Big Tournament every year.  The last two years, Butler has been the one team from the conference to represent.  Last year they went all the way to the finals before losing to Duke in the closing seconds. This year, they knocked #1 seed Pitt out of the tournament with a dramatic 71-70 win on a Matt Howard free throw with less than a second remaining.

The last time Butler lost was at Youngstown State, 62-60, on February 3.  The Bulldogs, at that point, were a question mark to even make it back into the tournament field this postseason.  However, they got hot at the right time, won the Horizon League Tournament, and snared the automatic bid.


Here is where my gripe begins with the selection committee.  There were eleven Big East teams in the tournament.  Eleven.  Why? Yeah, the Big East has some good teams, but the lone Horizon entry knocked out the best (by seeding).  St. John’s had no business being in the field of 68.  Villanova was another questionable choice.  Georgetown stunk.  For Butler to have as many losses in the Horizon League as they did and still win tournament games, why doesn’t Valpo or Cleveland State get an at-large bid? The NIT is in New York, so Villanova and St. John’s wouldn’t have had to travel far to play where they belonged.

I hope Butler rolls through their bracket and wins the whole thing.  It is unlikely, but they are representing a whole conference that is undervalued by everyone from the tournament selection committee and ESPN.  Yep, the giant sports channel does little more than roll a few Horizon League scores on their ticker every half hour or so.

Butler isn’t the only team to do the conference proud.  Homer Drew had some moments with Valpo and Cleveland State has made some noise in recent tournaments.

The “experts” would be hard-pressed to find a conference that has had a better overall winning percentage than the Horizon League in the past ten tournaments.  How about a little respect?

Harlem Globetrotters Satisfy Crowds in Youngstown


The Harlem Globetrotters made a visit to Youngstown to do a couple of shows at the Covelli Centre.  The well-known ambassadors of goodwill amused the crowd of about 3,000 with their time tested tricks and some new twists.  Gone are Geese Ausby, Curly Neal, and Meadowlark Lemon.  This era of traveling hoopsters are known by names like Big Easy, Firefly and Scooter. They sound more like Muppets than basketball players, but when the tricks and skills start, these guys can really play.

The victims are still the Washington Generals, winners of only two games against the Globetrotters in the 85-year existence of the traveling franchise.  The Generals remind all Cavs fans that there is a team out there that is worse than what is being displayed in Cleveland these days.


The new-era Globetrotters pulled all of the old tricks out of the bag.  The three-man weave (above), the buckets of water and confetti, plenty of dunks, the constant spinning of a ball on a finger, and the thievery of the fans refreshments.  The magical act never gets old and is still one of the only entertainment ventures that brings joy to all ages.

The new wrinkles put into the act were good and fresh concepts.  Big Easy served as a frontman.  He roamed the court with a wireless microphone and made very smooth transitions from skits back to game action.  The wireless mic is a good technological advancement and enhanced the bits.  The other innovation was the creation of a “four-point shot” (below).  The four-pount shot is a circle located between the three-point line and half court.  There are four four-point circles placed even distances from the hoop, 35 feet to be exact which is 12 feet farther than an NBA three.


WFMJ-21 Sports Anchor Mike Ackelson was an honorary Washington General.  There will be a complete story here on Ack’s experience as a guest player later in the week.  Big Easy walked Ackelson through a fun-filled journey from one end of the court to the other.

The other interesting feature was the amount of different styles of dunks.  There were tomahawks, alley-oops, backboard-pass slams, fast breaks, reverses, you name it, they covered it.


Abe Saperstein turned his dream loose in 1926 with his creation of The Harlem Globetrotters.  This team actually originated in Chicago and have played a remarkable 25,000 + exhibition games all over the world for Popes and Presidents, for the rich and the poor.  One thing that has remained consistent over the duration of their storied history has been the ability to amaze with skills and to make people smile.  There were plenty of smiles to go around Youngstown for a day.

Scrappers Plan Lebronfire, Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert Officially Invited


At the conclusion of the August 5th Mahoning Valley Scrappers game, a Lebronfire will be held at Eastwood Field. The baseball game will feature the Scrappers against the Tri-City Valley Cats.  Any fan who shows up at the gate and turns in any piece of Lebron James Cavaliers Apparel will be given a free Upper Box Seat ticket.

After the game, the merchandise will be destroyed behind second base via fire, Lebronfire. Cavs Owner, Dan Gilbert, has been invited to lead the festivities.

Scrapper GM Dave Smith says the ceremony may provide closure for distraught Cavs fans.  “Hopefully the night will give the loyal fans of Cleveland and Northeast Ohio a chance to turn the page on a very disappointing chapter in Cleveland sports history.  I would doubt that any true Cleveland fan will want to wear their Lebron James jersey ever again.”

Additionally, the Scrappers will accept as a trade-in the Rally Towels that were passed out to fans during the Lebron James — Stay In Cleveland Rally’.  Any other Cleveland bitterness (The Drive, Art Modell, The Fumble, Jordan’s Shot over Craig Ehlo)  can also be used to help start the fire after the game.