Jonathan Nageotte

Maplewood forward Jonathan Nageotte (32) scored a career-high 17 points during Tuesday’s Region 3 opener at Union City.

UNION CITY — In facing a team with its leading scorer on the sidelines, the Maplewood Tigers boys basketball team had the opportunity to steal a victory from the Union City Bears in the Region 3 opener for both teams. However, the remaining Bears on the court stepped up to the challenge and rallied for a 52-46 victory against the visiting Tigers on Tuesday night.

The homestanding Bears (3-3 overall, 1-0 Region 2) nailed eight 3-pointers and had three players score at least 13 points each in a contest without leading scorer Keegan Hornaman (17.50 points per game). Cole DeSimone sunk four triples and led all scorers with 19 points, while Jamon Higley (16) and Matthew Bennett (13) also finished in double figures, with Higley adding 13 rebounds for a double-double.

Maplewood (2-3 overall, 0-1 Region 2) was unable to capitalize on senior forward Jonathan Nageotte’s career-best night. Nageotte totaled 17 points to pace the Tigers, while Joel Cox added 13 points.

“They’re down a kid, so they knew they hard to work,” Maplewood coach Shawn Rhoades said of Union City’s effort. “They executed and hit some big shots. It’s pretty simple.”

A quick burst allowed the Tigers to storm out in front to an 17-11 advantage by the end of the first period. Maplewood used its speed to turn four Union City turnovers into points en route to building a 13-4 lead through the first 3 1/2 minutes of play.

“It was just effort and we got after it,” Maplewood coach Shawn Rhoades said of the initial surge.

Following a full Bears timeout, the home team started to chip away at the deficit. Bennett scored his first 3-pointer of the night in the team’s first possession following the timeout. He totaled 12 of his 13 points in the first half and helped Union City use a 15-6 second quarter to grab a narrow three-point lead at the break, 26-23.

Rhoades attributed the Bears’ second quarter success to getting out of rotation on defense.

“We were trying to focus on team defense all together,” Rhoades said. “We were getting out of rotation because we were gambling. They made us pay and hit some shots. They did a good job.”

Nageotte provided some big shots of his own in the third quarter and was a huge force in the paint. The Maplewood forward made four buckets in the post, all during a 12-9 Tiger push to end the frame. 

“I told him that we needed him in the post,” Rhoades said. “He has pretty good touch down there and he works hard. I told him that he had to use his body to get some buckets, and he did that. I think he played well.”

Maplewood saw themselves behind by just one point, at 39-38, with just one period remaining in regulation. However, points were very hard to come by for both squads in the four minutes of the fourth quarter. A Cox free throw tied the contest with 7:29 remaining, as the scored remained the same until Higley put the Bears back in front just under the four-minute mark on a put-back post bucket.

Union City would not surrender the lead again for the rest of the game. With the Bears in front as seconds continued to tick off of the clock, the Tigers were forced to foul and put Union City at the free throw line. Union City went 6 for 9 at the charity stripe, while Maplewood couldn’t find decent looks at the bucket in the final two minutes of play.

“They were playing hard, but we didn’t execute,” Rhoades said. “We kind of spectated a little bit, and forced some shots that didn’t go in. Unfortunately when that happens, (you can get) a lack of confidence. It’s mental and physical.”

Maplewood will look to get back to .500 on Friday when the Tigers host Cochranton, at 7 p.m., in Region 3 action.

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