GUYS MILLS — Like it did in the first matchup, Tuesday’s Region 2 boys basketball showdown between the Maplewood Tigers and the Youngsville Eagles went down to the wire. After Maplewood earned a 45-43 road win in their season-opener, the Tigers pulled off another close victory, beating the Eagles 39-36 on senior night at The Woodshed.
Logan Kennedy and Brandon Snell both scored a game-high 10 points for the Tigers (2-6 overall, 2-3 Region 2), with Snell going a perfect 10 for 10 at the charity stripe in the second half. Lucas Sleeman chipped in eight points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, Connor Burns contributed a career-high six points and senior Kaleb Donor added five points.
Dominic Dell and Joe Mack led the Eagles (2-7 overall) with nine points apiece, while Brady Olewine and Carson Chase totaled six points each.
Maplewood led 35-31 with about two minutes remaining in the contest. But, a side-step 3-pointer from Chase and a reverse lay-up from Dell put Youngsville ahead with 45 seconds remaining. After the ball was knocked out of bounds off of Youngsville during the ensuing Tigers possession, Maplewood called a timeout with 33.3 seconds left. After the ball was in-bounded, Snell was fouled and sent to the line, as the Tigers were in the double bonus. Snell sank them both to put Maplewood ahead 37-36.
On the next Eagles’ possession, Olewine went for a go-ahead bucket in the post but was turned away with Sleeman’s fourth block of the night. Sleeman and Olewine crashed on the carom and the whistle was blown for a jump ball. The Tigers gained possession because the possession arrow was in their favor. Another pair of Snell free throws iced the game with 12.1 seconds remaining, as the Eagles were unable to force overtime with their final heave toward the bucket.
Maplewood coach Shawn Rhoades called the thrilling victory “huge” for his team, as the Tigers snapped their six-game losing streak.
“For this group of younger kids, it’s good to win a close one like that,” Rhoades said. “It’s huge for them and a confidence builder. I’m aware of our ability, but you have to get everyone believing in the same thing. It’s big for those guys to get the monkey off their backs. We weren’t losing on senior night at our own place.”
The Tigers posted their best defensive effort of the season, giving up a season-low 36 points. Maplewood also won the rebound battle 29-24, while forcing the Eagles to shoot just 25% from the floor. The Tigers utilized their zone defense, despite Youngsville being able to convert from long distance. Rhoades said he saw improvement throughout the game.
“In the first half, we were over-extending and getting too far out instead of condensing a little bit,” Rhoades said. “Once we talked about it, we weren’t getting out of position that much.”
Youngville held an 8-4 lead in the closing minutes of the first quarter before Kennedy made three straight buckets, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Maplewood an 11-8 lead after one period. Those other two shots were made in penetration to the basket.
Kennedy and Donor drove the ball in the paint more often than in games past, which created drive-and-kick opportunities to Burns and Sleeman in the post or lay-ups chance at the rim.
“We talked about attacking their 2-3 zone with the drive-and-kick, and tried to get Sleeman going down low with the size advantage,” Rhoades said. “Lucas had some key rebounds and Kaleb had some good spurts where he turned them over and scored.”
Youngsville worked back in the second period to grab a slim one-point lead, at 18-17, at the break. After scoring 22 points in the opener at Youngsville, Snell was held scoreless in the first half, but he made the Eagles pay for their foul trouble in the final 16 minutes.
“We knew they were keying on (Snell) after the game he had up there,” Rhoades said. “We just told him not to rush and it’s going to come to him. Also that if he’s not going to get his points from the floor, get them at the line, and he did.”
After Maplewood regained a 26-22 lead heading into the fourth, the Tigers worked for their largest lead of the night, at 33-25, with 5:20 to go. However, Youngville wouldn’t go away, posting an 11-2 run before the Tigers won the game at the free throw line.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Donor, stat keeper Lydia Sleeman and three Maplewood cheerleaders were honored in a senior night ceremony. Rhoades had kind words about Donor after the game.
“He leads by example and is non-stop,” Rhoades said. “Sometimes we have to tone it back and pull the football out of him, but I’d rather have that than not enough effort. He’s a great kid and he busts his butt.”
Maplewood will travel to Union City tonight at 7 for another Region 2 contest.