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By jim manion | Correspondent
Mogadore used the "Austin Attack" on Friday night to avoid a costly upset in the Portage Trail Conference County Division.
Austin Mahoney and Austin Pierce combined to bury eight 3-pointers and bring back the host Wildcats after they had trailed for most of the contest against an improving Garfield G-Men team.
The nail-biter saw Mogadore take a 57-56 lead with 26.3 seconds remaining in the game when Mahoney hit his third 3 of the game. The Cats then held on defensively in the final seconds to win a 59-57 thriller.
Mogadore (11-2, 8-1 PTC County) remains only one game behind division-leading Windham, which defeated Waterloo on Friday night 69-46. Garfield (4-10, 4-5 PTC County) gave the Wildcats everything they could handle for more than three quarters, with Mogadore only gaining three leads in the entire contest. The G-Men controlled the boards 36-23 and dominated the paint, but the clutch 3s of Pierce and Mahoney sent the hard-luck gold-and-black home wondering what it would be like to put four quarters together.
"We got lucky," said Mogadore head coach Russ Swartz. "They gave us everything we could handle. They had great guard play and just beat us up on the boards. Sometimes you just have to have luck on your side.
"Mahoney was big for us early when he got in the game, and then Pierce really came through late. We went to a 1-3-1 defensively to attempt to spread out their big guys and it really worked for us."
Hunter Van Camp, who closed out the scoring in the final 20 seconds with a pair of free throws, led Mogadore offensively with 17 points. Pierce hit five 3-pointers for 15 points, and Mahoney cashed in with 14 points.
Pierce hit a 3 at the six-minute mark of the first quarter to give Mogadore a 5-2 lead. The Wildcats then went over five minutes without scoring as Garfield went on a 12-0 run to take a 14-5 lead. Matt Pratt led the charge for Garfield with seven points in the run, knocking down a big 3 and hitting at the foul line to complete a 15-9 first-quarter lead for the G-Men.
Garfield took a 6-5 lead at the four-minute mark of the first quarter and led the rest of the first half. The G-Men controlled the boards and went inside to Anthony Workman and Fred Maxey for the height advantage. Workman scored back-to-back bunnies to give his team a 25-18 lead with three minutes to play in the half.
A 3 by Mahoney cut the Wildcats' deficit to 27-25, but Garfield closed the half with a Steven Lambert fastbreak basket and a Pratt free throw to lead 30-27 at intermission.
Pierce hit three straight 3s in the third quarter, but Mogadore still could not gain the lead because Lambert converted a pair of steals into layups for the G-Men. Garfield led by as many as eight points, 40-32, with three minutes remaining in the quarter and held a 46-42 lead after three stops.
Mogadore took its first lead of the second half at 49-48 when Van Camp hit a 3 at the 5:05 mark of the fourth quarter. Garfield gained the lead right back and held it until Mahoney hit a 3 at the 2:25 mark.
Mahoney then drilled his final 3 with 26.3 seconds left to gain the 57-56 advantage for Mogadore. The final 26 seconds saw Van Camp go to the free-throw line twice and hit the front end of a 1-and-1 both times. The Cats were only 4-of-9 from the line for the game.
Garfield had three opportunities to get shots in the final 26 seconds but turned the ball over.
"A couple things down the stretch cost us: turnovers and some missed free throws," said Garfield head coach Andy Olesky. "I am incredibly proud of my guys. I think we are the best 4-10 team you'll ever come across, we are just a real tough-luck team. I feel for the kids, because they really bust their tails every night and have the best hearts in the world.
"You have to give Russ (Swartz) and his guys credit, though. They just kept battling back when they were down."
Garfield had four starters reach double figures, with Workman leading the way with 16 points. Lambert had 15 points and Maxey netted 12, while Pratt hit for 10. Maxey also pulled down 18 rebounds.