COCHRANTON — To beat one of the top teams in your region, you almost have to play a flawless game. The Maplewood Tigers boys basketball team wasn’t able to do that on Friday night in Region 2 action against the Cochranton Cardinals.
Maplewood shot just 28 percent (13 of 46) from the field during the contest, while Cochranton posted a 50 percent (20 of 40) conversion rate from inside the arc along with seven made 3-pointers on its way to a 62-39 victory at the Birds Nest.
Spencer Kenny paced the Cardinals (12-5 overall, 10-1 Region 2) with a game-high 15 points, making three shots each from short and long range. Chase Miller added 13 points off the bench, while Jon Gallo and Tyler George chipped in seven points apiece.
Luke Sleeman was only Tiger to reach double figures with his 10 points. Kaleb Donor contributed seven points, while Noah Burk (6) and Sam Wright (5) posted career-highs for Maplewood (2-10 overall, 2-7 Region 2).
Cochranton did not let their guests settle in coming out of the gate. The Cardinals tried to trap the Tigers before they were able to get into their offense. Cochranton’s lengthy forwards, Jaiben Walker, Keeton Grimes and Miller, were at the front of the press and would get help from the guards if the ball was in one of the corners.
“They basically put their long guys up front and chased the ball,” Maplewood coach Shawn Rhoades said of the Cochranton press. “It’s not aggressive until you get across the timeline. They hope to get you to the sideline and jump you. They’re disciplined, they do it well and have some long athletes. It’s one of those deals where you try to keep your kids until control so they don’t speed themselves up.”
Maplewood turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, which allowed Cochranton to establish a double-digit lead within the game’s first quarter. A 13-4 run that began in the middle of the opening period put the Cardinals ahead 23-6 with one minute left. The Tigers got buckets from Wright and Burk to close the gap, but still trailed 23-10 at the end of the frame.
As they did in the opening quarter, Cochranton converted three 3-pointers in the second period. Kenny had two in the first half while Gallo, George, Walker and Miller each sank one, as the Cardinals extended their lead to 39-21 at the break.
From there the Cardinals were able to take their foot off the gas pedal somewhat. Both teams posted only eight points in the third quarter, before Cochranton outscored Maplewood 15-10 in the fourth.
When Maplewood did get into their offense during the contest, the Tigers had trouble getting into a scoring rhythm. Leading scorer Brandon Snell was held to just five points on 2 of 12 shooting, and the team was only 1 of 15 from beyond the arc.
“They challenged (our shots),” Rhoades said. “They have athletic guards that can cover a bit of ground and athletic bigs that come out on you. We tried to find Brandon, and he just had one of those nights that shooters have. He’s didn’t give up and kept shooting, and I give him credit for that.”
Maplewood was able to get Cochranton into foul trouble in the second half, as the Cardinals were tagged with 22 fouls in the contest. The Tigers took 21 free throw attempts — 19 of those in across the final two periods — but they made just 12 of them. Even though a few players had four fouls, no one on the Cardinal roster fouled out.
“If you can get the other team in foul trouble, it’s never a bad thing,” Rhoades said. “ If we fully capitalize at the line, it doesn’t cover the spread, but it closes the gap. Cochranton is long and athletic, so you have to ball-fake and be technical. Some of our kids are learning still how to draw contact instead of avoid it.”
Maplewood will next host Saegertown on Monday at 7 p.m. in Region 2 action. It’s the first of three home games during the week that will close out the season. The Tigers will host Union City on Wednesday and Eisenhower on Friday.