COCHRANTON — The free throw from Cochranton wing Chase Miller bounced away. Wyatt Barzak jumped high enough to snag it over the outstretched arms of the Union City forwards and tossed it back quick for the putback. The basket gave Cochranton a 48-43 cushion with just a couple minutes to go.
“(Cochranton) won the hustle game and they won the game because they out-hustled us,” said Union City head coach Shawn Thompson.
At the Bird Cage, four more points via free throws helped the Cardinals pull away from Union City 52-43 in a key Region 3 boys basketball game on Friday night.
“Luckily we made enough plays down the stretch,” said Cochranton head coach Phil Canfield. “Union City played us tough, that zone gave us a bit of issues. So credit to them. They’ve improved, we’ve improved and I’m just glad we came out on top tonight.”
Cochranton clinches the third seed out of Region 3 and moves to 6-14 overall and 6-5 in region. Union City falls to 8-13 overall and concludes Region 3 play with a 5-7 record.
“These guys think that everybody wrote us off early at the beginning of the year and rightfully so honestly because we were pretty bad,” said Canfield. “We’ve gotten things turned around and we’re just trying to prove that we can play with some people and try to make some noise here.”
That seeding could prove important for a playoff run and early on both teams showed that they wanted that third spot.
The Cards and Bears traded baskets until Cochranton closed out the quarter with baskets from Jaiben Walker and Chase Miller to take a 12-7 lead.
In the second quarter, the Bears flipped things in their favor by forcing turnovers. Keegan Hornaman tallied a steal and score then Colton Bijaczko scored on a baseline drive for a 13-12 lead.
Matt Bennett hit two Free throws and Cole DeSimone knocked home a trey to make it 18-13.
Jon Gallo responded with a 3-pointer to end the Bears 11-1 run and both teams got back into the back-and-forth game until halftime with Union City up 22-20.
“A little bit in that second quarter we kind of fell off and they began getting more loose balls and more offensive rebounds and we weren’t cleaning things up in that regard,” Canfield added. “We did a much better job of that in the second half.”
Things really changed for Cochranton out of the break. Gallo started the stanza off right with a trey for the lead. The Cardinals were flying from there, forcing seven turnovers. Walker scored six points.
Miller hit a corner three to put the Cards up 36-30 and Tyler George added a layup before the quarter ended.
“We’ve been struggling in the third quarter the last few games. We went (into halftime) and our kids heads were down and we were up by two. I don’t know why, it was almost like we shut down there and it took the third quarter to wake back up again.”
Hornaman and Bennett combined for 13 points in the fourth quarter to will the Bears back into contention, getting it to within three points twice. But each time Cochranton found the answer.
Walker powered through defenders for a bank layup. Barzak added his putback and the Cardinals held on for the win.
For Union City, Hornamen led with 12 points. Bennett added 11 off nine points in the second half. DeSimone scored eight.
“Hopefully we can put this one in the past and bring a better effort,” said Thompson. “The last two games before this one we were outhustling our opponents. We just have to get back to playing Union City basketball. Hopefully we can do that.”
For Cochranton, Walker led the way with 19 points, nine of which came from the charity stripe. Gallo scored 14 points as well.
Jordan Hansgen can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.