Jan. 24—It's not an easy task for two players to outrebound an opponent.
But Chardon's Sammy Sulka and Kyle Palovich were ready for the challenge when the Hilltoppers trekked to Madison on Jan. 24.
The duo posted 29 rebounds while Madison mustered 25. Add in a strong defensive performance from Chardon, and it led to a 56-44 Hilltoppers' victory.
Chardon started the game on a 9-0 run but a Madison timeout allowed for the Blue Streaks to tweak their offense enough to make it a one-score game after the first. The Hilltoppers didn't let the Blue Streaks' flurry get to them as they started the second on an 8-0 run.
While the points were what got them ahead, Coach Chad Murawski knew defense was important against Madison's JP Dragas. The News-Herald coverage area's third-leading scorer with 27.5 points a game, the Hilltoppers found ways to keep the ball out of his hands as he finished with 16 points.
"When you come to Madison on a Tuesday night, it's a hard place to play," Murawski said. "JP is an unbelievable player, and even though he didn't get his shots to fall early it's still a terrifying game to plan for. I'm proud of the defensive effort tonight and the teamwork."
With the strong defense as well as board control in their favor, Chardon also saw a plethora of payers step into the scoring roles as well. Led by Ethan Faber and his 18 points, Sammy Sulka was the only other Hilltopper to finish in double figures with 11.
But the Hilltoppers saw eight players finish in the scorebook.
Even with the double-double, Sulka has grown accustomed to his role in the completely revamped Hilltoppers' offense.
"We have to get those boards," Sulka said. "I focus on getting rebounds, and that's what Kyle and I have made our goal this season. It's really important to get everyone involved. We're always working ball movement and body movement at practice. When we get everyone going, we look a lot better as a team."
After having control of the boards for the past two seasons, Murawski knew with the length of Sulka, combined with Palovich's size, it allowed for the Hilltoppers to have an edge over teams.
Winning the battle in the paint is something Murawski knows will be critical not only as his team tries to catch Riverside and Mayfield in the conference standings but also once the postseason rolls around.
"We talk about we don't have the size inside anymore," Murawski said. "We know on different nights that different guys can score. But Sammy and Kyle have been animals on the glass, which we need them to be with that lack of size. I'm proud of them, and on nights like tonight we have to be able to rebound if we want to win."
It was a challenging contest for Madison (9-5) and Coach Nick Gustin knew with the way Chardon defended Dragas, they needed someone else to step up.
Both Seth Negin and Ben Amos added seven points to the Blue Streaks. Even though they weren't able to rally against Chardon, it's a lesson they can carry with them into the second half of WRC play.
"We had the ball to start the second quarter and couldn't convert," Gustin said. "We had a lot of unforced errors in that frame and saw them score. We know that we have to get some other guys involved in the score. When we're successful, you're seeing them score at a big clip. Tonight we didn't finish those opportunities, but now it's a point of us being able to convert those opportunities."
The Blue Streaks look to get back on track when they hit the road against Kenston on Jan. 27. Chardon steps out of conference for a trip to Kirtland on Jan. 28.