By Drew Karpen
Senior night could not of been scripted any better for the Saegertown boys basketball team. The Panthers’ seniors scored 50 of the team’s 60 points during a 60-47 Region 3 win over Conneaut. And that effort finished off a 12-0 run through Region 3, and extended the Panthers’ winning streak to 15 consecutive ball games.
“This is great for the seniors to go out this way,” Saegertown head coach Greg Molnar said. “And this particular group of seniors have been around since they were in 8th grade. We needed some momentum going into the playoffs. We didn’t want to lose this game at home and have an emotional letdown heading into the playoffs because you never know what is going to happen.”
The loss drops Conneaut to 13-8 overall and 8-3 in the region. And the Eagles are now in a position where they will be holding their breaths come Sunday when the District 10 playoff brackets are announced.
Two of the seven seniors for Saegertown (18-4, 12-0 Region 3) didn’t waste any time making an impact as Jeff Mattocks lobbed an alley-oop to Dustin Pavlik for the lay in and an early two-point lead.
Both teams would trade buckets for the duration on the first quarter with the biggest lead being four points by Saegertown.
With the score tied at 12-12, Kevin Varee entered the game off the Conneaut bench and drilled a 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining in the quarter. From that point the emotions intensified as Varee gave his patented 3-point salute to the Saegertown student section.
Varee started the second quarter in the same fashion he ended the first, connecting on a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a six-point lead.
Saegertown began to dig into that lead with baskets by Pavlik, Mattocks and Shane Rigby. But the Eagles had an answer with 3-pointers by Danny Holcomb and Tyler Bartlett.
With 1:31 left in the half, The Panthers’ Scott Sada converted on a fastbreak layup to tie the score at 28-28.
The teams once again traded buckets, but this time the Panthers got the last laugh. After Sid Smith banked in a shot with nine seconds left to tie the game, Mitchell Wood raced down the court and laid it in with a second remaining on the clock to give Saegertown a 34-32 lead heading into the locker room.
Both teams hit a stalemate in the third quarter. Saegertown scored six points in the frame, Conneaut just five.
With the Panthers leading by three, Pavlik came up big, sinking the team’s only 3 of the game and giving his squad a two-possession lead.
And things didn’t get any easier for Conneaut as big man Noah Uplinger picked up his fourth personal foul with 3:27 remaining in the third.
Bartlett would salvage the quarter for Conneaut, knocking down a 3 to bring the deficit to 40-37 with one quarter left.
The Panthers would increase their lead back to six on a floater in the lane by Mattocks and free throw by Rigby but Conneaut was not ready to go away.
Uplinger returned to the game. He and Holcomb both knocked down a field goal to bring it to a 43-41 game.
After another Mattocks basket, Bartlett flexed his muscles and converted a 3-point play, trimming Saegertown’s lead to 45-44.
That’s when the wheels fell off for the Eagles.
Shortly after that point Uplinger fouled out, followed by a 3-point play by Scere.
“I was just trying to score and help my team out there in the second half,” Scere said. “And I wanted to make sure I made my foul shots to put the game away.”
For a majority of the game, Conneaut head coach was not too pleased with the officiated and his frustration reached a tipping point as he received a technical foul for arguing.
“We just kind of fell apart with us already being down by so many points,” Holcomb said. “We couldn’t come back and we didn’t really have the heart.”
The Panthers ended the game on a 15-2 run.
Scere was one of three seniors in double figures. He finished with a game-high 17 points. Mattocks had 13 and Rigby finished with 12.
“This is the character of this team,” Molnar said. “Every game we can have someone else take over. Tonight is was Austin’s turn. He is really one of the unsung heroes.”
For Conneaut, Uplinger led with 16 points. Bartlett had 11.