By Pete Chiodo
The fourth quarter can give, and the fourth quarter can take away.
It’s the take-away part that has been bugging the Meadville boys basketball team, which had seen a number of leads dry up in the fourth quarter during the first part of the season.
On Saturday, however, it was the Bulldogs’ turn to rise up in the final frame as they outscored Cochranton 29-15 in the fourth to rally for a 67-58 victory over the Cardinals in the consolation game of the Sertoma Club Holiday Basketball Tournament at the MASH House of Thrills.
“It was a nice fourth quarter,” said Meadville head coach Mark McElhinny. “We played well. That was the big difference in the game.”
Meadville (3-5) went into the fourth trailing 43-38. The Cardinals (6-2) had enjoyed a terrific third period, pulling ahead after finishing the first half tied with Meadville at 24-24.
At that point, Cochranton was led by three players in double figures. Logan Herzberger had 13, Josh Vanderhoof had a dozen and Nick Dickson had 10.
Meadville’s Armoni Foster was able to provide a little spark for Meadville at the end of the third, completing a three-point play with 3.9 seconds remaining to pull the ’Dogs within five points going into the last eight minutes.
“That gave us some momentum going into the fourth.” said McElhinny.
Meadville rode that momentum for a 12-0 scoring run to start the final quarter, which put the Bulldogs on top 50-43.
’Dogs sophomore Jason Clune had five points during the run, including a 3-pointer. Faizon McClure scored four, including a three-point play. And Foster made three of four foul shots after Vanderhoof was hit with back-to-back penalties — one personal and one technical — to give him five for the game.
Cochranton was whistled 24 times to Meadville’s 15. However, Cards head coach Scott McCurdy wasn’t about to pin the outcome of the contest on anyone but the 10 players on the court.
“Things got weird, both sides, with calls. Both teams got rattled, distracted,” he said. “It seemed like Meadville weathered that storm with a little bit better composure, which isn’t like us. They crushed us in the fourth quarter. We gave up 43 points in the second half. Our defense got soft. Meadville kept taking it to us. We just let our guard down a little bit. It wasn’t our normal defensive effort.”
It wasn’t the Cardinals’ normal offensive effort either. The Redbirds were just 6-of-22 from the floor in the fourth — just 27.2 percent. Yet much of the credit goes to Meadville’s defense, which kept the Cardinals away from the hoop.
“They gave us nothing easy on our end,” said McCurdy. “We had to work for every shot.”
Meanwhile, Clune continued to surge in the fourth for Meadville, scoring 17 points in the period. He went 6-for-7 from the floor, 1-for-2 from the arc and 4-for-4 from the foul line.
“He came up big in the fourth,” Bulldogs senior Derek Niemann said about Clune. “He was making shots. He was creating shots. And we got a big win. We needed that.”
Clune — an all-tournament team pick — ended the game with a team-best 24 points.
“(Clune) let the game come to him,” said McElhinny. “He was forcing things earlier in the game. But in the fourth he let it come to him ... We went to more of a post-up offense. And Jason is a very good post player. He got some nice looks in the fourth quarter.”
McClure also had a big fourth, scoring six points to finish the night with 13.
Niemann also scored in double digits for Meadville. He tallied 14 in his second start this season.
In the first quarter, Niemann was 4-for-4 from the floor, scoring eight of the Bulldogs’ 10 points, which allowed the ’Dogs to hang with Cochranton early.
“It just happened that way,” said Niemann. “I usually go inside more on defense, just to be more physical. But I’ll take what I can get, right?”
Meadville’s Shequon Lindsey also made it onto the all-tournament team, even without scoring a point last night. He did, however, grab 10 rebounds and swatted away five blocks for the ’Dogs against Cochranton.
“We talked about that in the locker room,” said McElhinny. “(Lindsey) is just a steady player. It seems like every game he has 10 or so rebounds and five blocks.”
Herzberger and Dickson also made the all-tournament team from Cochranton. Both players finished the game with 17 points. Dickson added eight rebounds. Garrett Adams chipped in seven points and grabbed a team-best 12 rebounds for the Cardinals.