By Lisa Byers
Every team goes through a funk at least once during a season. Maybe it’s only for a quarter, a half or a two-minute stretch. But every team experiences that moment when absolutely nothing seems to be going right.
It was that kind of night for the Meadville Bullogs on Friday. And what poor timing with red hot Oil City making its visit to the House of Thrills for a Region 5 showdown.
Meadville shot just 12 of 57 from the field for a dismal 21.1 percent. The Oilers, meanwhile, were 17 of 41, including a 11 of 21 effort in the first half, as they cruised to a 52-32 win.
“Oil City is a nice team,” Meadville coach Mark McElhinny said. “They move the ball; they’re strong. They just took us out of our game.”
Meadville took Oil City out of its game early with its 2-3 zone defense and had a 10-4 lead. That’s when the lights went out for the Bulldogs and clicked on for the Oilers.
The Bulldogs took that aforementioned six-point lead with 3:10 to play in the first quarter on a basket by Jason Clune. They didn’t score again until three minutes into the second quarter on a free throw by Derek Niemann.
Oil City, meanwhile, lit up the scoreboard with 20 unanswered to take a 24-10 lead with 5:11 to play in the first half.
“We have so many tremendous athletes and we kill ourselves all the time,” said Oil City coach Mark Cochran. “If you’re patient, everybody’s open, especially against a 2-3 zone.
“That’s a young Meadville team, but they’re playing pretty well. It took us time to understand that people are open underneath because we are so stretched out. Then we kick it to them and we have a layup.
“Then we come out in the third quarter and did the same thing. We got selfish and it put Meadville back in the game.”
Oil City took a 31-14 lead into the locker room at halftime. But Meadville still had some fight left.
The Bulldogs cut that deficit to 13 (31-18) with back to back baskets to open the second half and pulled to within just nine (35-26) after 3-point baskets by Jake Gregor — off a turnover — and Armoni Foster. Meadville scored just six points the rest of the way.
“Tonight is the most disappointed I have been,” McElhinny said. “I thought we didn’t move the ball as well as we have been. I thought we were a little one on one tonight.”
The Bulldogs fell to 4-8 overall and 2-5 in Region 5. Oil City, which knocked off Farrell on Wednesday, improved to 10-2 overall and 5-2 in the region.
“We’re playing well right now,” Cochran said. “The Farrell game was huge. Coming up here to Meadville … I’ve never won up here at Meadville. I coached girls for 10 years, these boys for two years, seventh grade boys and I’ve never won here. This is a good win for us.
“The kids are playing good basketball.”
Devon Gieb had the hottest hand for the Oilers. He finished with a game-best 16 points. He had eight of those points in the second quarter to go along with six rebounds. Logan Way added 13 points and nine rebounds.
For the Bulldogs, Clune finished with 15 points.