Andy was dandy
Juhola made a habit out of coming through in crunch time for the Harbor Mariners
By CHRIS LARICK
Awards are nothing new to Andy Juhola.
Just four years ago, Juhola was named to John Carroll's hall of fame. As a college and high school basketball player (at Harbor) raked in honors, serving as captain of the Blue Streak team from his sophomore year on.
Also at John Carroll, Juhola was Rookie of the Year of the Presidents' Athletic Conference as a freshman. He was a second-team All-PAC selection as a freshman and sophomore and first team as a junior and senior, years in which he was also named the league's MVP. He was MVP of the Blue Streaks as a sophomore, junior and senior.
Juhola was also Star Beacon All-Ashtabula County Player of the Year as a junior, in 1982-83. He was a first-team selection as a senior.
Now, Juhola has been selected to the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation's Hall of Fame, now in just its second year of existence. He will be inducted, with the rest of the Class of 2004, Sunday at the ACBF's annual banquet.
"It's quite an honor to be recognized, in my mind so early," Juhola, 38, said. "I feel blessed. I'm surprised that I'm going so early."
Juhola played on a Harbor team
that also included Chris Jones, Tony Lignetta, Greg Vandeweel and Joe Sadler, with Kevin Koski and Al Altonen coming off the bench. "(Koski and Altonen) played quite a bit," Juhola said. "We were all seniors. Chris Jones was our other scorer and we had guys who could handle the ball well and guys who could set picks."
The three Harbor teams Juhola played on accumulated a 56-16 (.778) record, winning three Class AA sectional championships and advanced to the regionals in 1984, winning 21 games (against five losses), a record that can never be changed since the school no longer exists.
"That's where I learned to play the game, probably because of my teammates," the 6-foot-4 Juhola said. "We had all played together since the sixth grade. Our senior class was pretty successful. We all knew each other and knew our roles."
Juhola, the youngest son of Ken and Rosemary Juhola, also credits his brothers, Dan, Tom and Mike, for teaching him the game.
"My brothers were always beating me up," he said. "But I learned how to make a shot with someone in my face. It helped me, absolutely. I was the youngest and most of the time I just wanted to survive. But when you play better competition you get better."
When he reached junior high school, he really began to love the game.
"Basketball got to me in junior high school," he said. "It's the only game where you can have an impact at any time. Even if you're not having a good night shooting or rebounding, there are so many skills involved in the game, you can still have an impact every trip down the court."
Harbor's teams in the three years Juhola played for the Mariners went 18-4, 17-7 and 21-5 yet never won a Northeastern Conference championship. But the Mariners went farther in the tournament than any team that did, in 1984, when they were one game away from going to state when they ran into a St. Vincent-St. Mary team that included future NBA-er Jerome Lane and future NFL-er Frank Stams and .
"I remember that one for obvious reasons," Juhola said. "But I also remember the regional semifinal against JFK when I hit two free throws to win by a point or two."
In that game, the score was tied at 51 when Harbor put the ball into play from the sideline with six seconds remaining.
Tony Lignetta threw the ball in to Juhola, who was fouled.
"There's no way I expected to get fouled," Juhola said after the game. "The guys were encouraging on the bench. They said (the shots) were in. My knees shook a little, but I just took one dribble and shot. After the first, I knew the second was in."
JFK coach Dennis Jasminski lamented, "Of anyone we had to foul, it had to be Juhola."
Actually the entire Mariner team went 15-of-16 from the foul line that game. Juhola led with 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Chris Jones and Lignetta added 10 points apiece and Joe Saddler contributed 10 rebounds and eight points.
The shot that most Mariner followers will remember lifted Harbor into the regionals. Juhola fired away from the top of the key and hit nothing but net to sink Chagrin Falls' hopes, 49-47. That was the district semifinal. In the championship game the following night, Harbor disposed of second-seeded Trinity, 67-57, with Jones scoring 20, Juhola 19, Lignetta 14 and Greg VanDeweel 10.
"We were down by five with two minutes to go," Juhola remembers of the district semifinal. "I scored the last seven points and won it at the buzzer. I threw it in from the top of the key.
"I made TV. Channel 8 News interviewed me. I played softball with Vince Cellini later and he remembered me."
Harbor had advanced to the district by knocking off Gilmour, 43-34, and Beachwood, 57-50. Of his winning shot against Chagrin, he said at the time, "I just prayed it went in. I saw the basket, but I didn't have any touch on it. I lost control of it, picked it up and just threw it."
Juhola went on to score 1,502 points at John Carroll, third in the school's history. He added 649 career rebounds and shot .784 from the foul line, both fourth in JCU history. He was also the school's career assist leader.
He would have scored many more points in high school if there had been a three-point arc at the time.
"I played my whole high school career without that," Juhola said. "Our plan then was to get a shot from 15 feet in. There was no benefit to taking 20-footers, so we didn't. It made a lot of sense."
Despite his success as a college basketball player, the times he'll remember most are his high school games.
"I think it was more of a job in college," he said. "We were a Division III school so we weren't on scholarship. It was much less fun. The guys I played with became good friends, but I didn't grow up with them.
"I knew I wasn't going to do this much longer. I kept at other things. Basketball was more of an outlet. In high school there was more passion about it."
Juhola still considers going to the high school regional finals his greatest athletic achievement.
"College was more of a social climate. Going to the regional finals was probably the highlight of my athletic eight years. I was satisfied coming out of college. I was given more responsibility on how the team performed. I was asked to do more coaching on the floor, that part I really enjoyed."
John Carroll's coach at that time, Tim Baab inducted Juhola into that school's hall of fame in 2000.
At that time, Juhola recalled a conversation he had with Baab halfway through his freshman season.
"‘Andy, you have to start taking control,'" Juhola remembered Baab saying. "I told him I was only a freshman. He said, ‘I don't care.'
"I asked Coach Baab to speak for me because he was the reason I went to John Carroll. He had a little different approach, and I have great respect for him.
In 1986, when Juhola was a sophomore at John Carroll, the Blue Streaks went to the NCAA Division III tournament. His senior year he led John Carroll to a 20-4 record, a mark that stood as the most victories in school history until the 1997-98 season. But the year he remembers most was his junior year.
"We were ranked in the top 10 nationally," he said. "But because of injuries and other things, only two of our first eight guys were left by the end of the season.
"We really had to simplify our offense and play a pretty hard man-to-man defense. We had trouble running with teams and we had trouble pushing people around, but we played smart basketball."
Basically, Juhola had three coaches during his years at Harbor and John Carroll — John Higgins and Andrew Isco at Harbor and Baab at John Carroll.
"They not only taught me basketball, they taught me to be a good person," he said.
Juhola works as human resources manager at Molded Fiberglas, where he has worked for 15 years.
"I do the hiring and firing, workmen's compensation and the health plans," he said. "It gets a little tricky at times, but I haven't had any problems."
Andy and his wife, Julie, got married while both of them were still in college at John Carroll.
"We got married when I was a sophomore," he said. "It was an interesting time. It may not have been the smartest thing in the world to do, but we were two young people who wanted to spend all our time together. We were fortunate that we had parents who enabled us to do that."
Juhola continues to play sports. He is the shortstop on the powerful Great Lakes Auto Network softball team and plays basketball with friends a couple of times a week, including Sundays.
"I've been doing that for 20 years," he said. "I'll continue to do it as long as I can run."
Andy and Julie have one son, Ryan, 11, who isn't following in Juhola's footsteps as a basketball player.
"He did for a while," Juhola said. "It became something he doesn't have that much interest in. He's into music and stuff like that. So many Juholas played so many sports, I like him for that."
Despite the Juholas' long connection with sports at Harbor, Juhola supported consolidation when it was up.
"I've been nothing but Harbor my whole life, but I took up what I thought was a good idea for the school system. It wasn't about athletics at this point. I was for the levy. I thought it was time."
Had Harbor and Ashtabula been consolidated during Juhola's years, who knows how far they would have gone in the tournament
"We would have had Terry Hanna, Terry Thompson and Carlos Aponte," Juhola said. "We would've been pretty good. I think practice would be very intense."