By A.J. Atkinson | Correspondent
Despite a slow start, the Mogadore Wildcats began hitting their shots and put the host Woodridge Bulldogs away 65-44 Tuesday night in Peninsula.
With the win, the Wildcats improved their record to 12-2 overall and 9-1 in the Portage Trail Conference County Division, while the loss dropped the Bulldogs to 6-7 overall and 4-5 in the County Division.
For the first two quarters, Mogadore's shooting struggled, giving the Bulldogs hope of an upset as they trailed by only three points after two quarters. But after encouraging words from coach Russ Swartz at halftime, the Wildcats' shots started ringing true as they put up 21 points in each the third and fourth quarters.
"I told them at the half they were doing a good job," Swartz said. "We were getting good shots. It would just be a matter of time before they would start falling."
After the Wildcats missed all 3-point attempts in the first half, Swartz said he told his team to take more perimeter shots and eventually they would find the range.
Austin Pierce was that guy for Mogadore as he hit three second-quarter 3-point shots.
"He made some big 3s to get us rolling," Swartz said of Pierce. "The great thing about this team is we have so many guys who can step up in that role."
As Mogadore's shooting improved, Woodridge never recovered for much of a comeback. Aside from Nelson Perry, who led the Bulldogs with 17 points, Woodridge continued to miss shots, and the Bulldogs' poor rebounding did not provide many second-chance opportunities.
"I was very disappointed with our rebounding," Woodridge coach Brian Fantone said. "We can't rely on only our post players for rebounding."
Fantone said he was pleased with how well his team played in the first half, but was disappointed by the lack of response to Mogadore's scoring.
"They hit open shots. We didn't," Fantone said simply. "We got our butts kicked in the fourth quarter. My bench coaches and I realized if it wasn't for Nelson (Perry), we wouldn't be scoring at all. We didn't have other shooters stepping up."
Swartz said he was pleased with how well his 1-3-1 defense forced multiple Woodridge turnovers and shut down all the Bulldogs' shooters except for Perry. Swartz said the Wildcatgs tried their best to shut Perry down, but that's not an easy task.
"He's just so quick," Swartz said of Perry. "Jake (Cramer) is quick and can keep him under control for the most part, but he can blow by you so fast. He caused many fouls for our big men."
Fantone did speak highly of his leading scorer, though he paid more attention to his defensive play on the night.
"(Perry) is so energetic for us," Fantone said. "One thing I love is that in the three years I've coached him, his effort never wavers no matter what is going on in the game. He plays as fast as you can all the time."
Fantone said he had to help boost his deflated locker room after the game.
"We compare basketball with life all the time and how you can apply what you learn in basketball to life," Fantone said. "In the grand scheme of life, this is just a game, but it is something you can learn from. You have to learn how to bounce back, and that's what we'll do."
For Swartz, he said it was just another win for his Mogadore squad.
"We don't concern ourselves with other teams," Swartz said. "We know where Windham stands and we know where we're at. We just need to keep getting better every game."