So when the Poland boys basketball team defeated the kids from Canfield 50-41 in a home game on Feb. 11 there was the normal amount of jubilation ringing through the gym on Dobbins Road. If you listened hard enough, however, you could hear some extra celebrating emanating from the Bulldogs’ bench. That is because longtime Poland head coach Ken Grisdale notched his 300th career victory last Friday night as well. Coach Grisdale has had many huge accomplishments in his 18-year tenure at Poland, but perhaps none could match the moment of win number 300.
“I’ve been around a long time,” answered Grisdale with a chuckle this past Sunday afternoon when asked what reaching the 300 win plateau meant to him. “I am very fortunate to have such a great opportunity here at Poland. I’ve had some good teams and some really good kids.”
Grisdale’s batch of current kids almost let the historic win slip away when Canfield came back from a 14-point second-half deficit to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to just two points late in the game. When Poland closed out Canfield with a 7-0 run, it was time for coach Grisdale to get teary-eyed.
“It was very emotional,” said Grisdale. “I reflected back to that '93-94 team when it all started here at Poland and realized how many great teams I’ve coached.”
Making things even more emotional for the Poland basketball boss was that the win happened against the same school where he once roamed the halls.
“I am a graduate of Canfield so beating them was pretty cool,” Grisdale said elatedly. “Canfield is special because I got win number 100 against them and now (number) 300.”
If Grisdale’s gang is to amass even more wins in the coming weeks it will need to stay on the court and off the disabled list. The 12-4 Bulldogs have lost a couple players to injury in recent weeks (one for the rest of the season) and have been battling the flu bug as a group. Remaining upright the rest of the way will help Poland once it starts district tournament play in a couple weeks.
“We are beat up,” Grisdale announced. “We need to get healthy soon.”
The districts begin on March 4 in Boardman when the number two seeded Bulldogs battle the winner of the game between Hubbard and Ravenna. Between now and then, Poland must play Campbell, Beaver and West Branch before a rematch with the hated Cardinals on Feb. 25. By the time that clash with Canfield takes place, Howland should have probably wrapped up the All American Red Tier title making that game a battle for second place. One of the regrets coach Grisdale has had this season is not taming the Tigers in the Red Tier.
“Our first goal ever year is to win our conference,” said Grisdale disappointedly. “Howland is a very nice team. We handed the first game (a 60-56 loss on Jan. 14) to them and we let them make a comeback and win the second game (a 66-64 loss on Feb. 8). We can still tie them if they lose and we get two (conference) wins. It will be tough though.”
Most likely Grisdale’s kids will concentrate on catching fire in the state tourney. The coach does not think that getting hot at the right time will be hard for his boys to do.
“I think we can make a nice run,” he said optimistically. “We play hard and have improved a lot. My personal accomplishments wouldn’t have happened without the help of this team.”
One of those accomplishments was earning that monumental 300th victory as a coach. An even bigger accomplishment may be if this batch of Bulldogs helps coach Grisdale cut down the nets in Columbus next month.
Photos by Mike Capps, Town Crier correspondent
Poland’s Athletic Director Brian Banfield awards Basketball head coach Ken Grisdale the game ball after his 300 victory that was reached against Canfield. Poland beat the rival Cardinals, 50-41.