Clay Cox

Maplewood’s Clay Cox scored a team-high 15 points during Friday’s Region 3 victory against Cochranton.

GUYS MILLS — Having a short-term memory in sports is a key characteristic for any winning player or team.

The Maplewood Tigers boys basketball team did just that on Friday in its 54-51 home victory over the Cochranton Cardinals in Region 3 action. 

Three days after the Tigers were unable to make a dominant first quarter hold-up on the road against a short-handed Union City Bears squad, Maplewood did not let history repeat itself against Cochranton. After establishing a sizable 23-11 lead after the first period of play, the Tigers (3-3 overall, 1-1 Region 3) did just enough to survive against the Cardinals (0-5 overall, 0-2 Region 2) to pick up their first region win of the campaign.

“It’s always a good feeling,” Maplewood coach Shawn Rhoades said of picking up a key region victory. “(Against) Cochranton you have to come ready to play. We got up early and got after it, but then we kind of lulled a little bit. We stopped executing. We moved around a little bit.”

Jonathan Nageotte, whose 14-point night was only topped by teammate Clay Cox and Cochranton’s Jon Gallo (15 points each), played a huge role in getting Maplewood off to a fast start. Coming off his career-best 17-point night against Union City, Nageotte scored 10 points in the opening period, including the first six for the Tigers. 

Maplewood was patient in its offensive possessions, which allowed them to work the ball around the perimeter and find the open player, which was mostly Nageotte in the first quarter. Maplewood held a lead as large as 14 before taking a 12-point advantage into the second canto. 

“We moved the ball, and we executed,” Rhoades said. “We found mismatches and we made lay-ups. If we make lay-ups consistently, these close games maybe won’t be that close.”

Even though the Tigers had the lead, Maplewood began to rush themselves on the offensive end of the floor in the middle period of the contest. Some forced shots and a handful of turnovers allowed Cochranton to have the opportunity to get back in the game. 

And the Cardinals did so, using a strong game on the offensive boards to collect a multitude of second-chance points in the paint. Cochranton out-rebound Maplewood, 32-19, throughout the contest, and narrowed its deficit to, 44-36, by the end of the third quarter.

“We didn’t box it. It’s a simple thing. They’re athletic and long, so you have to find them and we weren’t doing that. We turned and didn’t make contact with them and they’re too good to not do that. Fortunately, it didn’t kill us completely. 

In the final period of regulation, Cochranton made it a one-possession game, at 52-49, with just under two minutes remaining. With its lead slipping away in front of the home crowd, a scary moment for the Tigers turned out to be somewhat of a blessing.

With 34 seconds left on the clock, Nageotte and a pair of Cardinals went up for a rebound off of a missed Cochranton shot. Nageotte, who worked for position against the pair of birds on his back, was fouled from behind on his way down from collecting the rebound and the senior Tiger fell hard to the ground. After being attended to by the team’s trainer, Nageotte had to leave the court for the next play, and Jake Brunot was substituted in his place. 

Because the Cardinal foul on Nageotte put the Tigers in the bonus, Brunot went to the line with the game in the balance in a one-and-one scenario. With ice in his veins, Brunot made both the free throws to make it a two-possession game, and the conversions at the charity stripe proved to factor into the difference. 

Following a Cochranton post bucket from Jaiden Walker, and a missed pair of Maplewood free throws, the Cardinals had one final chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer in the final seconds. The shot caromed off of the rim, and fell into the hands of Nageotte, who came back into the game to make the game-saving rebound as time expired.

“Hats off to Cochranton,” Rhoades said. “They came back, and hit some shots. Thankfully, we were able to pull it out. It was a total team effort. This is a big win. These guys have never beat Cochranton as a group.”

Maplewood will have until Friday to rest and regroup when the Tigers host Fort LeBoeuf, at 7:30 p.m., in their own holiday tournament opener.

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