By Lisa Byers
GUYS MILLS —
Every team has a game that means a little more to them than any other, regardless of where they or their opponent stand in the big scheme of things.
Since day one of the 2012-13 season that game for Maplewood was its Region 3 home clash with backyard rival Cambridge Springs. And it certainly showed in the Tigers’ performance.
Maplewood out-rebounded Cambridge Springs by 10 and held the Blue Devils to just 27 percent shooting on its way to a 49-45 win on Wednesday night at the Woodshed.
The Tigers moved into a tie with the Devils for fourth place in the region with the win. Maplewood is now 5-11 overall and 2-4 in Region 3. Cambridge Springs fell to 3-10 overall and 2-4 in the region.
“They wanted this game,” Maplewood coach Jeremy Peterson said. “I could sense during warm-ups in the small gym … They were focused on their shots. You could see a little something extra.”
That little something extra proved to be the difference late.
Cambridge and Maplewood were locked in a battle from the very beginning. The Tigers did have a seven-point lead in the first quarter, but the Blue Devils rallied back, scoring the final six points of the quarter to pull to within one (17-16) heading into the second period.
Maplewood finished the half with a four-point lead (26-22) and extended that lead to as many as nine in the third quarter. But that is when things got interesting.
The Tigers led 31-22 with 5:04 to play in the third. Josh Huff knocked down a pair of treys for the Blue Devils and Marcus Palmero finished off the quarter with three points of his own to pull Cambridge Springs to within just two (33-31) going into the final period.
Palmero started the fourth with a layup off an inbounds pass to tie the score at 33-33. Like earlier in the contest, though, the Tigers responded. And with just under five minutes to play, Maplewood found itself back in control, leading 40-34.
Huff’s third 3-pointer of the game, however, ignited a 7-0 run by the Blue Devils that gave them their first lead (41-40) since early in the second quarter. The lead exchanged hands five times over the final three minutes.
A jumper by Josh Lake put the Tigers up 46-45 with 52 seconds left. Cambridge had a chance to take the lead after Justin Dahl’s miss on the front end of a 1-and-1. Austin Porter secured the rebound for the Blue Devils, but Palmero’s shot at the opposite end was off the mark. Maplewood took possession on a jump ball on the rebound with 24.5 seconds left.
Cambridge Springs was forced to foul and the Tigers made 3 of 4 to secure the win.
“We’re playing better now at this part of the season,” said Maplewood senior Logan Battin said. “We have a lot of young guys, a lot of guys who haven’t played a whole lot of basketball. I think we’re going to keep getting better.”
Battin played a huge role for the Tigers down the stretch. The point guard had 12 of his 15 rebounds in the second half. It was also his one-handed jumper with 1:56 to play that gave Maplewood a 44-43 lead.
“We had some kids who really stepped up,” Peterson said, “like Alex Bakus on defense playing up top on our press was really putting a lot of pressure on their point guard. Alex Reagle played a real big game in the post.”
Bakus led the Tigers, who shot 40 percent from the floor for the game, with 12 points. Reagle added nine points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Lake finished with 10 points. Dahl had nine points.
For Cambridge, Palmero finished with 15 points. Porter had 12 and Huff finished with nine.