The Tigers and Grove City will begin the playoffs on Friday.
By BILL ALBRIGHT
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. -- With both teams already designated as co-champions of the Mercer County Athletic Conference AAA Division, Tuesday night's game between Grove City and Sharon was for pride and the top seed for the District 10-AAA playoffs.
After splitting the pair of regular season match-ups, the Tigers won the third meeting 79-70 at Buzz Ridl Gymnasium at Westminster College.
Both coaches were quick to agree that the tempo of the contest was a big factor in the final outcome.
"We decided that we were going to press to get the tempo going, even if we gave up some easy buckets, and we felt that if it ended up in the 70s, we were going to win," Sharon coach Jim Hoy said.
"We didn't execute what we wanted to," added Grove City's Don Fee. "We needed to keep the pace down, and I think that some of the turnovers we had early on got them going."
Deciding factors: Two other factors favoring the Tigers were rebounding and defense.
"Our defense has gotten a lot better, and that is a credit to [assistant coaches] Dee Walker and Brian Hoover," said Hoy.
Fee agreed that the Tiger domination on the boards was a huge factor in determining the outcome.
"I told our kids at halftime that one of our big problems was that it was one-and-out for us," said Fee. "That happens to us more when we shoot too many 3s, because when the guys on the perimeter shoot, the other guys have a tendency to stand around and watch. They beat us up on the boards tonight, and that was critical for us."
In leading his team to the win, Sharon's Julian Betko had 29 points and eight boards, while Mike Schneider scored 12 points and yanked down 13 rebounds.
However, Hoy was quick to recognize the efforts of Corey Cheza, Duston Golub, Matt Gill, O'Brien Bridges, Luke Schweiss and Jake Braymer.
No restrictions: "I have said it all year that you never know who is going to answer the bell for us," said Hoy. "One thing I don't do as a coach is tell guys they can shoot and others that they can't."
For Grove City, Will Anderson led with 24 points and Jeff Krantz had 10.
Fee also felt the shot selection left a lot to be desired.
"We shot way too many 3s, and at times I thought we also had some guys who tried to do too much themselves," said Fee. "When we were patient, we got some layups because they overplay so much, but for the course of the entire game we didn't do enough of that."
In the D-10 playoffs, Sharon will play either Harbor Creek or Corry Friday at Edinboro University, while Grove City will face North East at Meadville High School. Both games are Friday at 7 p.m.