By Doug Chapin
YOUNGSTOWN — A 21-7 second-quarter advantage provided Mathews High with enough of a cushion to hold off league rival Maplewood, 67-65, Friday night in a game that was part of the the Lariccia Family High School Basketball Series at the Covelli Centre.
The Mustangs (11-1) bounced back from their first loss (Tuesday at Brookfield) and remained undefeated (8-0) in the Northeastern Athletic Conference.
“It was a great game, like we expected, and both teams have a lot to be proud of,” Mathews coach Ron Price said. “Both teams played hard and everybody hit big shots. That’s what basketball’s about, right there. It was a fun game.
“Both teams were so excited and honored to be down here. The kids will never forget the experience of playing a great game at this venue. We’re used to playing in our shoebox. But it was a lot of fun. Both teams played well and, surprisingly, both teams shot well.”
Maplewood (7-4, 3-3 NAC) opened a 19-11 lead late in the first quarter before Mathews tallied the last five points of the period. The big second quarter left the Mustangs on top 37-26 at halftime.
“We beat them three out of the four quarters, but you just can’t lose the second quarter 21-7,” Maplewood coach Matt Urchek. “To their credit, they shot lights out. Every time they had an open look they knocked it down.
“As we started to make a run in the third quarter, it seemed every time we’d get close they hit a key shot. We got to the fourth quarter, and that’s a long time to be running uphill.”
The Rockets worked their deficit down to 46-39 midway through the third quarter, but Mathews opened it back up to 53-39 and held a 57-47 advantage heading into the final eight minutes. Maplewood closed to within 57-53 quickly in the final quarter but never was able to get closer than two points.
“Both teams made a lot of big shots,” Price said. “That’s all you can ask of the kids is when they get a look to knock them down. We knew they would make a run, they are too good a team not to make a run.”
Both teams shot well from the field, Mathews making 45 percent (26-for-58) of its attempts and Maplewood 43 percent (23-for-53). The Mustangs, though, shot better from behind the 3-point line, making seven-of-17, compared to Maplewood’s four-of-16.
The teams committed just 13 turnovers between them.
Senior guards Collin Bowser and Shane Link scored 17 points each to pace Mathews. Bowser also had six assists. Chris Morgan added 11 points and nine rebounds and Cole O’Dell and Rick Sommers contributed four assists each.
For Maplewood, Alex Doneyko scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and John Moy scored 18 points.
“We don’t want to go score-for-score, we want to try to hold them,” Urchek said about the Rockets’ approach. “We are definitely defensive-minded first and we wanted to try to hold them down because sometimes we get in shooting slumps like we did tonight.
“We don’t want to really try to outscore somebody we want to stop them. Our defense was just a little bit slow tonight. Then on offense, sometimes we forced some shots trying to keep up the pace.”