By Pete Chiodo
The Meadville boys basketball team was looking for, as head coach Mark McElhinny put it, “a good, hard workout” before heading into the Region 5 portion of its schedule.
The Bulldogs certainly got what they asked for against a big, experienced McDowell squad on Tuesday night at the House of Thrills. The Trojans defeated the Bulldogs 67-50.
“We talked all along that this was going to be a tune-up,” said McElhinny, whose team dropped to 1-2 on the season with the loss. “We wanted to hang tight. And I think that we did, for the most part. But these kids know that they have to improve. ... It was a good learning experience for us.”
At the same time, McDowell (2-1) was looking to get in and out with a landslide victory. And Meadville never entirely bent to the Trojans’ will, creating a couple frustrating moments for the Trojans.
“I thought we grinded,” said McDowell head coach Kevin O’Connor. “Meadville’s got some athletes. That definitely brought us back a little bit. I view us as a heavyweight team, I really do. And I thought we had a chance to knock them out a couple times. And, give Meadville credit, they didn’t allow that. They stuck with it.
“I’m okay with the win,” he added. “A win is a win, especially down here. But, again, we’re heavyweight fighters. We like to knock people out. And we just didn’t have that opportunity.”
MASH, in fact, led for much of the first quarter. Bulldogs sophomore Jason Clune came out hot and had seven of the team’s first 10 points. Freshman point guard Armoni Foster had the other three with a triple. And Meadville had itself a 10-6 lead.
However, McDowell answered by outscoring the Bulldogs 20-2 over the next eight or so minutes to take a 26-12 lead with under three minutes to go in the second quarter.
Too many turnovers and a stronger effort by McDowell on the boards (the Trojans out-rebounded Meadville 17-9 for the half) finally caught up with MASH.
“I was disappointed in our intensity,” said McElhinny. “I thought would should have had a little more desire to go after the ball. But, give (McDowell) credit. That’s a good, athletic team. Sometimes it looks like you’re not playing as hard as them because you’re playing against those athletes.”
McDowell’s run was ignited by four straight passes out of bounds by the Meadville offense at the end of the first. Eventually, Clune drove the lane to drop in a bucket at the buzzer, halting an 11-point run by the Trojans making it a 17-12 game going into the second.
However, that was the last shot Meadville would make for quite some time. The ’Dogs began the second quarter missing their 10 attempts from the floor. They finally stopped the bleeding with two minutes left when Shequon Lindsey popped in a spinning layup to make it 26-14.
Yet, McDowell’s momentum couldn’t be stopped. The Trojans went into halftime in command 32-16.
Meadville displayed a little more intensity to start the second half. They did a better job on the boards, out-rebounding the Trojans 7-5 in the third quarter. Clune got back into scoring mode, tallying seven points in the third. And Faizon McClure started knocking down shots, scoring a pair of buckets during a nine-point run by the Bulldogs that cut McDowell’s lead to 37-27.
“I thought, in the third, when we cut it to 10, if we could have had more momentum we might have had a chance to run at them,” said McElhinny. “But they made some big shots.
“We got into little more of a running game in the third quarter,” he added. “We got some better looks on offense. But when it came down to it we didn’t get the stops at the other end when we needed to.”
McDowell outscored Meadville 10-2 as the third quarter wound down, making it a 47-29 game going into the fourth. Meadville never really challenged the Trojans again.
The Trojans were paced by senior Michael Beck, who had 20 points. Junior Dalton Grafius followed with 16 points and led the team with seven rebounds. Junior point guard Quinn Lewis chipped in 12 points.
For Meadville, Clune led the way with 16 points and a team-best eight rebounds. McClure scored 14 points.