By A.J. Atkinson | Correspondent
A winless team in four games against a team that had only been on a basketball court for three weeks proved to be an excellent matchup.
After a heartbreaking conference loss Tuesday night to Southeast on a game-winning shot at the buzzer, the Woodridge Bulldogs (0-4, 0-2 PTC County) gave the Mogadore Wildcats (2-0, 2-0 PTC County) everything they had Friday night, falling to the host Cats 49-46.
With 3:15 left and Woodridge leading, the Wildcats' Austin Mahoney hit a 3-pointer with a hand in his face to trim the Bulldogs' lead to 46-43.
Then, trailing 46-44, the Wildcats worked the ball around, taking time off the clock and working for a late open shot. With under 1:30 left, the Wildcats set up Mahoney for an open 3. Mahoney didn't miss his opportunity, swishing the 3 to give the Wildcats a 47-46 lead with 1:21 left in the game.
The Bulldogs had ample opportunities to regain the lead. A missed breakaway layup by the Bulldogs was rebounded by Mogadore's Hunter Van Camp, who was quickly fouled. Van Camp hit both free throws to give the Wildcats a 49-46 lead.
Woodridge came out of its fourth timeout with 15 seconds left. The Bulldogs' Nelson Perry brought the ball down the court quickly, but the Wildcats' tight defense prevented any penetration into the paint.
Woodridge's Anthony Mong threw up a desperation 3 that clanged off the left side of the glass, giving Mogadore the victory.
The Bulldogs, disheartened, walked to their locker room past the celebrating Wildcats. For the second night in three days, they had come so close to winning their first game of the season.
"I'm really proud of our guys," Woodridge coach Brian Fantone said. "We played really hard. We never backed down. I'm proud of the way we bounced back after a tough loss to Southeast."
Fantone said the late mistakes that led to Mogadore finishing with the lead were just mental mistakes, and he encouraged his team not to only look at how it played at the end.
"Everyone remembers the plays at the end," Fantone said. "I told the guys, 'It's the stuff at the end of the game people remember, but there were turnovers and plenty of other events that happened in the first quarter that people won't remember. The end wasn't what lost us the game.' "
Still aglow from the excitement of the crowd and the close game, Mogadore coach Russ Swartz laughed, "Typical division game.
"We had a number of guys step up tonight," Swartz said.
Talking about Mahoney's late 3-pointer, Swartz said, "I don't know if you could tell, but those guys have confidence in Mahoney. They wanted him to have the ball in that situation. The early wins always feel great. Again, this is only our third week."