By Jim Manion | Correspondent
The Mogadore Wildcats used a strong fourth quarter Friday night to turn back Southeast in the battle for second place in the Portage Trail Conference County Division. Mogadore scored more points in the fourth quarter than it had put in the hoop for the first three quarters of the contest to claim a 45-35 victory in Palmyra.
The win by the Wildcats keeps them on pace for next week's showdown with division leader Windham. Mogadore (13-2, 10-1 PTC County) will host the Bombers next Friday. The Wildcats' only division loss came at Windham in early January.
A 23-6 burst of energy by Mogadore in the final eight minutes was the difference in the game Friday night against the Pirates.
The Wildcats held a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter, but did not regain the advantage until 4:41 remained in the game.
With Mogadore trailing 29-22 to begin the final quarter, Southeast (9-6, 7-3 PTC County) was forced into six straight turnovers and the Cats went on a 15-0 run to take a 37-29 lead. Southeast failed to score in the fourth period until Dakota Laporte hit a free throw with only 2:59 left in the game.
The first half saw tight man-to-man defenses and low-percentage shooting as both teams struggled offensively. Mogadore's Jake Cramer broke a 6-6 tie when he hit the game's first 3-point basket at the 2:30 mark of the first quarter. Cramer had also scored the first basket of the game for his Wildcats and collected a pair of assists on passes inside for scores.
The Wildcats netted only two points in the second quarter, while Southeast's Jordan Krych hit a 3 and a soft jumper in the paint to lead his Pirates to an 18-14 halftime advantage.
"(Southeast) really killed us on the offensive glass in the first half," said Mogadore head coach Russ Swartz. "We switched to a zone in the second half and that usually means you suffer on the boards, and that worried me because we weren't doing a very good job on the boards when we were in man. What really helped in the third and fourth quarters was we created a lot of turnovers."
The key to those Southeast turnovers was Gary Strain coming off the bench and creating havoc in the frontcourt. He had two steals, an assist and a fastbreak basket to jump-start the offense for the Wildcats.
"Gary has been doing that all season," said Swartz. "He rebounds the basketball and just flies around. Everyone knows his energy level from football, and he is so quick and athletic and all over the court."
Nathan Simyak cashed in a 3 midway through the third quarter to give Southeast a 24-16 lead, the Pirates' largest of the contest. They led 29-22 after three quarters.
After a Cramer free throw, Strain made a steal at midcourt and scored to start the Wildcats' run opening the fourth quarter. Austin Pierce then hit a 3 that brought the Wildcats to within a point.
It was at this point that Mogadore's Hunter Van Camp took charge. The 6-foot-3 senior scored the next five points, two of those coming off another Strain steal. Pierce then hit a runner and Van Camp scored another fastbreak basket off another Southeast turnover.
Van Camp led the Mogadore scoring with 14 points, while Kasey Beard finished with eight points. Beard scored four of his eight points in the final minute of the game to halt any thoughts of a Pirate rally.
Krych led Southeast with 13 points, while Trevor Norquest finished with eight points.
There were nine 3s scored in the game, with nine different players scoring one each.