By Lisa Byers
January 30, 2013 7:00 a.m. LINESVILLE —
Conneaut hasn’t played a whole lot of basketball as of late. In fact, Tuesday night’s Region 3 showdown against Cochranton was its first since Jan. 18.
Needless to say, it took the Eagles a little while to shake off the rust, and Cochranton took full advantage.
The Cardinals jumped out to a 13-0 lead on its way to a 59-51 win over the Eagles at Conneaut Area Senior High.
With the win, Cochranton moved a half game ahead of Conneaut in the Region 3 standings, improving to 11-6 overall and 6-2 in the region and is now a game and a half back of region-leading Saegertown. The Panthers still have games with Cochranton and Conneaut remaining on their schedule.
Conneaut fell to 9-7 overall and 5-2 in Region 3.
“My guys rose to the challenge on both ends right out of the gate and I think we caught them off guard,” Cochranton interim head coach Scott McCurdy said. “They’re coming off 10 days with no game and we were able to exploit that. We got the momentum going early.”
The Cardinals used a little bit of everything during their 13-0 run. They got a couple of three balls from Nick Dickson and Josh Vanderhoof, and Logan Herzberger caused a couple of turnovers on defense that led to easy layups at the other end.
But the biggest key for the Cardinals was their play inside where they were physically out-matched. The tallest player on Cochranton’s roster stands at 6-foot-2. Conneaut’s starting lineup includes three players at 6-foot-2 or taller.
That one player at 6-2 on Cochranton’s roster, though, did his job. And that job was to contain Conneaut’s star forward Noah Uplinger.
Uplinger scored 22 points in Conneaut’s 53-50 win over the Cardinals earlier this season. Alex Custead held him to 14 last night and few of those points came easy.
“The whole game,” McCurdy said. “He had a real good battle against Uplinger and made him work for everything he got. Noah is the best big man in the region hands down.
“We threw a couple different guys at him just to keep them guessing, doubled once in a while, and I would say Alex did everything we would expect right there.”
Cochranton capped its 13-0 run with 3:43 to play in the first quarter on a basket by Garrett Adams. With 2:50 to play in the period, Tyler Bartlett put the Eagles on the board with a layup that started a 6-2 run that pulled Conneaut to within nine (15-6) at the end of the quarter.
Conneaut outscored the Cardinals 45-44 the rest of the way, but the damage was already done.
“It’s like our Achilles heel,” Conneaut coach Bob Leupold said. “Every first quarter we come out and we play flat. We played hard and battled back, but when you get down that many points it’s hard to come all the way back.”
The Eagles did nearly pull it off, however.
Cochranton went cold in the third quarter and was held scoreless for nearly three minutes. The Eagles, meanwhile, scored seven — including a big 3-pointer by Stephen Martini — to pull to within two (40-38) with 1:21 to play in the stanza despite losing Tyler Bartlett to an injury.
The Cardinals responded with a 5-0 run of their own to extend their lead back to seven to start the fourth quarter. Conneaut never got any closer than four the rest of the way. Cochranton sealed the deal at the foul line, going a collective 12 of 14 in the fourth quarter.
“We usually don’t come out very strong,” Herzberger said. “We were all pumped up in the lockerroom waiting during that double overtime (junior varsity) game to get over. We were just ready to come out. We talked and we knew we wanted to come out strong and prove a point.”
That they did.
Herzberger led the Cardinals with 18 points to go along with three steals and five rebounds. Dickson added 14 points and eight boards, while Adams tallied 10 points.
Uplinger finished with his 14 points to lead the Eagles. Bartlett, who left with an apparent ankle injury with 4:04 to play in the third quarter, added 11 points. Martini finished with 10 points.
Leupold said following the game that he was unsure of the severity of Bartlett’s injury and should know more today. The Eagles have a non-region game tonight against Greenville. Leupold said he could hold Bartlett out of the game as precaution. The Eagles are already down one big guy with Chris Richardson out for the season with an ankle injury.