UNION CITY — After snapping a six-game losing streak on Tuesday against Youngsville, the Maplewood Tigers boys basketball team had their sights set on getting back to the .500 mark in Region 2 competition with a potential victory at Union City on Wednesday.
However, the homestanding Bears sprinted right past the visiting Tigers with a fast-paced attack on offense and high pressure on defense en route to a 56-37 region victory.
Union City (4-6 overall, 4-4 Region 2) had three players in double figures, with Matthew Bennett totaling a game-high 16 points. Josh James contributed 14 points off the bench, while Kyler Shaffer added 13 points.
Lucas Sleeman posted a double-double of a career-high 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while also blocking five shots for the Tigers (2-7 overall, 2-4 Region 2). Owen Holcomb added a career-high eight points off the bench, while Connor Burns chipped in five points.
Maplewood struggled to build any offensive rhythm in the first half, as Union City turned them over on their first four possessions and 12 total times in the opening 16 minutes. Combo that with a 5 of 22 shooting performance during the first two stanzas and it was not a recipe for success for the Tigers.
“We just didn’t take care of (the ball),” Maplewood coach Shawn Rhoades said. “Empty possessions usually put you down. It’s a goal that you should have less than 12 (turnovers) in a whole game. Once you have so many giveaways, it’s hard to get in a rhythm. Once you get yourself buried, there’s not so much you can do with it.”
Union City built a 20-7 lead after the first quarter and then took a 39-13 lead into the intermission. The Bears were aggressive in attacking the basket, which was rewarded at the free throw line and later from beyond the arc with their drive-and-kick plays. Shaffer made 5 of 6 shots from the charity stripe in the first half, while Bennett and James each sank a pair of 3-pointers.
In the second half, the Bears changed up their pace in the game, working more sets on offensive, which was more suitable for the Tigers’ zone defense. Maplewood settled down and won the second half by a 24-17 margin.
Sleeman scored eight of his 12 points in the final two periods, as the Tigers started to work the ball inside the paint. More of their possessions resulted in high-percentage scoring chances either from Sleeman or a kick out pass to a fellow teammate when the Bears defense collapsed on the 6-foot, 4-inch forward.
Rhoades was pleased with his team’s effort on offense in the second half.
“We just didn’t hit our shots (in the first half),” Rhoades said. “Some nights you’re going to have that. When you’re a perimeter shooting team, you’re not going to hit them all of the time. Therefore, we have to find other ways to score. The second half was much better. We took care of the ball, moved it and were more definitive in the post.”
Maplewood will next travel to Cambridge Springs on Friday at 7 p.m. in a Region 2 contest.