Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls hasn’t seen a state championship in boys’ athletics since baseball in 2008. Coach Kevin Byrne and his team have a chance to add 2022 to that list.
As a division one school that’s a tall order with the likes of Northeast Ohio powerhouses St Edward, Brush, Green, and Brecksville-Broadview Heights standing in their way. However, the Warriors have two things that can help them, a deep bench and a coach that tailors his philosophy to the talent on hand.
Coach Byrne is a former collegiate assistant and head coach. He has coached at almost every level. Akron, Carnegie Mellon, Ohio Northern and MIT are stops on his professional career. Byrne also spent time in professional basketball overseas in England and Ireland. He was excited to take the job at his alma mater, Walsh Jesuit, where he is currently the Director of Alumni Relations.
Walsh completed their regular season as the first ever Crown conference champions. (The Crown Conference was created after last year’s folded.) Their 20-2 record includes an early season win over St Ignatius, a loss to Akron St Vincent St Mary and an undefeated conference season. In an interview with Hoop Heads Podcast, Kevin talks about his style of play, which will bode well for the tournament. He likes to get the ball low in the post just to challenge opposing defenses. “Gets players to turn their heads,” he mentioned. A pressing/zone type defense can keep them in games, and quick outlets can lead to some easy points.
Walsh has a deep bench that can play this style. The last regular season game, a win over Gilmour, saw nine players score for the Warriors. This team has been led by their two top scorers, Arico (Rico) Pickett and Tyler Halligan. Having seven other scorers places a big hurdle for opponents to guard all five players on the floor. The Warriors are not a big team but do have two students 6’ 5” or taller in senior Kole Kuczynski and junior Keith Rivers. They both added points to the score sheet Saturday. With a few other Warriors at roughly 6’4”, Walsh can defend taller teams.
Walsh has a good tournament draw. In the Alliance sectional, their top game will most likely be against Green. The Sectional final would merit a game possibly versus Solon. Both games that the Warriors could potentially win. After that, the Regional Semis and Finals could see them up against St Edward or Brush. The Columbus regional would be their next step, with a potential game against Bradley again.
Last year for Walsh was a crazy year where the windstorm blew the roof off their home court! However, if Walsh keeps winning, The Dome (the name of their home court) may figuratively be blown off again. This time by the excitement of the student athletes and their fans.
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