By Drew Karpen
Conneaut’s Noah Uplinger proved to be a man among boys during Friday night’s 67-30 win over Region 3 foe Maplewood in the inaugural CASH Holiday Tournament at Conneaut Area High School. The Eagles advance to play Reynolds — a 46-41 winner over North East on Thursday — in tonight’s championship game at 8:45 p.m.
“I thought we executed pretty well (Friday),” Conneaut head coach Bob Leupold said. “We were a little sloppy there towards the end. We had some younger freshmen in there but overall I thought we played pretty well.”
Uplinger was the focal point for the Eagles. The 6-foot 4 senior took advantage of his size, scoring a game-high 25 points to go along with eight rebounds.
“He has been scoring like that all year,” Leupold said. “He has been in double digits and now he is finally getting on the boards a little bit better. He’s a matchup problem for a lot of other teams.”
Uplinger did most of his damage in the second quarter, scoring 13 of his 25 points. A key part of that was the way he was able to finish at the basket, converting four three-point plays in the game.
“He was Linesville’s best player last year,” Leupold said. “He is just picking up where he left off from last year and I expect him to do a lot more.”
Conneaut (5-3, 2-0 Region 3) proved they were going to be aggressive from the start, implementing the full-court press right away. Although both teams started out cold from the field, the Eagles’ defense was able to create turnovers for easy offense.
Maplewood (2-5, 1-1) took an early lead 1-0 on a free throw from Alex Reagle. That would be the only reason the Tigers would get to cheer for the remainder of the game. Conneaut then went on a 13-0 run, highlighted by baskets by Uplinger, Sid Smith and Danny Holcomb.
With less than five seconds remaining in the opening quarter, Maplewood was still searching for its first field goal of the game. Senior Justin Dahl finally connected a 3-pointer to end the quarter.
Conneaut continued to showcase its strength in the post in the second quarter. The duo of Uplinger and senior Tyler Bartlett recorded the first 10 points of the frame. Bartlett connected on two baseline jumpers that were sandwiched between to 3-point plays by Uplinger.
Maplewood’s Ryan Maloney would end the 10-0 run with a 3-pointer.
Now leading 23-7, Conneaut decided to lay off of the full-court press and focus on its man-to-man defense and the offense went into cruise control for the remainder of the game.
Smith was the only other Eagle to reach double figures with 10 points thanks to two 3-pointers. Bartlett and Holcomb each had six points. Bartlett added eight rebounds to his line.
For Maplewood, Justin Dahl led the way with 11 points. Dahl hit three 3-pointers in the game. Ryan Maloney chipped in with seven.
The Tigers will move on to play North East today in the consolation game at 5:30 p.m.