Warren JFK coach deserves credit for stepping up to challenge
Try being Warren JFK coach Shawn Pompelia.
Pompelia's team got blasted by Villa Angela-St. Joseph by 50 on Friday, then voluntarily stepped into the line of fire on Saturday to get clubbed by Richmond Heights, 74-59, in the Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout at Walsh University.
Despite being throttled by two of the top Division IV teams in Ohio, Pompelia said his program was for the better.
"Think of it. In less than 24 hours, we played the Number 2 team in the state (VASJ) and the Number 8 team in the state (Richmond Heights)," Pompelia said. "We are a D-4 school, so this is an experience and opportunity we are thankful for."
Kudos should be given to Pompelia for stepping to the plate on Saturday. When Gateway, Pa., backed out of the Dunk 4 Diabetes because of weather/travel concerns, Richmond Heights was temporarily left without an opponent for their 12:30 p.m. tipoff.
Enter VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak whose team was in Warren Friday night to play the Eagles.
"Babe called me (when) I was driving to the school," Pompelia said. "The JVs were 10 minutes away from tipoff. He said, 'Can you do me a favor? Can you play in this showcase?'"
Pompelia weighed the options. Not only was his team a few hours from playing VASJ, a game the Eagles lost, 86-36, but he also had a youth tournament going on at his school this weekend.
Pompelia told Kwasniak he would talk with his players, but deep down he already knew the answer.
"I'm like, 'Why wouldn't we play in this. It's a great event,'" Pompelia said. "So I'm trying to call people at 10 o'clock. 'Tell me something about Richmond Heights,' because I knew nothing."
JFK gave Richmond Heights a battle for a while. The final score says it was a 16-point margin, but the Eagles scored six points in the final seconds that made the final margin closer than the game actually was.
But Pompelia and his program deserve credit. In a span of 18 hours, his team got ripped by VASJ by 50, took a long drive from Warren to North Canton on Saturday morning, and then took another lopsided loss.
Granted, JFK had another motive for accepting the late invitation. Should the Eagles advance out of the Warren District, they could play either VASJ or Richmond Heights in a Division IV regional game.
They now have a scouting report on both.
That's a long way down the road, though. For now, Pompelia and his program will take what they learned from the difficult weekend - and also keep an eye on what happens when/if Richmond Heights and VASJ meet in the Garfield Heights District final.
"That's going to be a dynamite district final if they play each other," Pompelia said. "It's going to be a great matchup. Buy your tickets early."
- John Kampf