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Gazarek too much for SE

ATTICA — Seneca East coach Chris Long said he thought his team did a good job defending Levi Gazarek in the first quarter.

The only problem was, Gazarek had three quarters to go, and defending a 6-foot-5 Division I-bound athlete can be a challenge.

Seneca East had its moments, but Gazarek was too much as North Baltimore coasted to a 62-48 non-league win on Thursday.

“He is a good player,” Long said. “He hit some tough shots and some bombs for 3s. That is what he is going to do. I wanted my post players to stay close to him and stay connected to him. He is a big, physical kid that is hard to keep off the boards.”

Gazarek tallied 23 points and 15 rebounds after a scoreless first quarter. The future Bowling Green State University football and baseball commit even sat out the last 4:27 of the game with North Baltimore in firm control.

“You have to communicate so everybody is on the same page,” Long said. “When we are not on the same page, guys are going to get open looks. We have to move our feet while the ball is in the air. We have an issue here we want to watch the basketball and then be reactive to what happens with the ball. We have to be proactive while the ball is in the air.”

Gunner Kepling hit a 3 in the waning seconds of the second quarter as Seneca East (6-16) found itself down 34-24 at intermission. In the third quarter, both teams had empty possessions over the first part of the quarter before Clayton Heineman pushed the lead to 13 for North Baltimore (8-13) with a triple.

But, Andrew Kalb tallied a three-point play and scored again and suddenly, Seneca East was within 37-29 with 2:55 left in the quarter. Long thought his squad could have done more.

“At the beginning of the third quarter, we were getting stops, but we could not score,” Long said. “We had plenty of opportunities. We got to the basket and did not capitalize and did not finish.”

Instead, North Baltimore made a run to stretch the lead. Heineman and Mitch Clark each connected on 3-pointer for a 43-31 advantage. Gazarek attempted and made North Baltimore’s first free throws of the game and added a triple to extend the lead to 48-32 after three quarters.

Turner Bridgford hit a baseline jumper for Seneca East early in the fourth quarter, but North Baltimore did not relent. Gazarek made two more free throws and hit a 3 for a 55-36 lead with 5:10 left. He went to the bench soon after, but a 3 from Heineman and consecutive buckets from Johnny Hagemyer gave North Baltimore a 62-36 lead with 2:35 left.

Seneca East did score the last 12 points of the game, but North Baltimore’s 3-point shooting was too much. After missing all five attempts it took in the first quarter, North Baltimore made 10 of its next 15 tries.

“I knew they could shoot the ball,” Long said. “The fact of the matter is we have to communicate as a team. We have to communicate — not point, not nod our heads — we have to communicate.”

The teams played evenly over the first nine minutes of the game. Clark scored to give North Baltimore a 12-10 lead after one quarter.

The game was tied at 12 and 14 in the second quarter, but 3s from Heineman and Gazarek gave North Baltimore a 20-14 lead. Freshman Isaac Mason countered with a 3-pointer for Seneca East and a score by Jacob Siesel cut the lead to 20-19. North Baltimore responded with a 7-1 run for a 27-20 lead with 2:24 left in the first half.

It is a sixth straight loss for Seneca East — all by double digits and by an average margin of over 25 points a game.

“I wish I had an answer,” Long said. “I have beaten my head against the wall trying to figure it out. There is only one thing you can take with you when you play basketball and that is your defensive intensity. We have to get that. That is one thing I think we have been lacking most of the year.”

Heineman tallied 14 points for North Baltimore while Hagemyer and Clark each scored 10. Gazarek’s big night on the boards led to a 36-25 rebounding edge for Seneca East.

“You have to communicate so everybody can hear you,” Long said. “To me, it feels like we have too many guys that are more worried about defending individually. We have to defend as a team. To me, that becomes the biggest issue.”

Kalb and Seisel each scored 10 points for Seneca East, who is off until a tournament matchup next Tuesday against Margaretta at Monroeville High School.

“When we come in (today), it has to be about defense,” Long said. “Margaretta has a sophomore (Jake Leibacher) that averages 16 points a game and we have not been very good about stopping players individually that are very good. It is going to take a team effort.”

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