Roe and starting guard Alex Sterba would be a death blow to the St. Edward boys
basketball team. Well, they figured wrong. The Eagles are alive and kicking. St. Edward finished the regular season 16-4 and that feat is even more impressive considering that three of those
defeats were to nationally ranked teams. Toledo Libby provided the lone
loss to an Ohio opponent.
Well, they figured wrong. The Eagles are alive and kicking.
St. Edward finished the regular season 16-4 despite not only the loss of its talented power forward to knee surgery, but also overcame the loss of starting guard Alex Sterba, who is sidelined for the year.
The feat is made more impressive when considering that three of those defeats were to nationally ranked teams. Toledo Libby provided its lone loss to an Ohio opponent.
The Eagles, who are ranked second behind Garfield Heights in the Plain Dealer Top 25 poll, are arguably the strongest regional qualifying contender among Division I teams, due partially to a comparatively weak sectional/district. They are the top seed at Brecksville-Broadview Heights while second-seeded Normandy rests at No. 14 in the PD rankings and is the only other Top 25 team in the tournament.
Not bad considering St. Edward coach Eric Flannery was forced to alter his team’s style of play after Roe went down.
“We still have players, which our record indicates,” he says. “But we lost a good portion of our offense and without Delvon we lost a lot of athleticism. We had to change our style offensively. We’ve made sure we’ve kept the ball in certain people’s hands. We still have a good point guard in (senior) Frankie Dobbs.
“We had to realize that nobody was going to feel sorry for us or take it easy on us. The guys have done a tremendous job. I’m very pleased. Considering our schedule, we’ve won more games than I expected.”
The Eagles have slowed the tempo considerably, but remain aggressive on both sides of the court. They still look to run offensively and pressure the ball defensively, but they have used more zone defenses and run their offensive sets with greater frequency since losing Roe and Sterba just after the regular season began.
The team isn’t exactly devoid of talent. In fact, 6-foot-9 senior center Tom Pritchard appears headed to the University of Indiana on a full scholarship next season, though the uncertainty in that program has him taking a wait-and-see approach. Pritchard leads the Eagles at 16 points and 10.5 rebounds a game.
Meanhile, small forward Connor Tilow contributes 10.5 points a game while Dobbs paces the team at 6.5 assists a game.
It’s no wonder the Eagles are considered by many a shoo-in to win their district with a chance to qualify for the state tournament for the second consecutive year. St. Edward reached the state semifinals a year ago before falling to eventual champion Cincinnati Moeller.
“I look at it this way,” Flannery says. “Anything can happen, but I feel if we play good basketball that we’re the best team in our district and we have a chance. And once you get to regionals, anything can happen. We all realize that without Alex and Delvon, we’re a much more beatable team.”
Sterba tore his ACL last March and underwent extensive rehab. That forced the Eagles’ starting quarterback to miss the football season so he could be ready for basketball. And after all that work, he tore the ACL in his other leg in the first game of this season. Sterba, however, is far from a one-dimensional student-athlete. He boasts an ungodly 4.6 grade point average and is likely headed to an Ivy League school.
Roe signed with Michigan State last year, so the injury didn’t hinder the recruiting process. He averaged about 21 points a game for the Eagles as a junior.
The Eagles also lost promising sophomore Te’Shon Howard, who played extensively off the bench last season and was expected to start this year. Howard, however, opted to transfer to Oak Hill, a veritable basketball factory in Virginia.
“There’s no question there was an initial shock when all of this happened,” Flannery admits. “But we felt more sorry for Alex and Delvon than we did for ourselves. We got to the point where we just had to say this is what it is and move forward. I think the kids have done a fantastic job of that.”
Apparently. The 16-4 record speaks for itself.