By Michael Leonard | Record Publishing Co.
The Mogadore High School girls basketball team opened the final week of the regular season with a bit of a backyard rivalry game on Monday.
The Wildcats gave their neighbors to the north a tough fight, but Tallmadge made just enough shots to pull out a 44-41 non-league win.
Mogadore fell to 8-13 overall, while Tallmadge improved to 15-6.
Mogadore head coach Tom Pollock said the game was a solid one for the Wildcats.
"We didn't play well in our last game against Springfield, so we challenged them," Pollock said. "I'm very happy with the effort tonight. We went man-to-man early in the game."
Conversely, Tallmadge head coach Bill Johnson said the game was tougher for his team than it should have been.
"We didn't do a lot of things that we usually do on defense," Johnson said. "Mogadore was patient in their offense and they made shots. In the first half, they outworked us. That can't happen on the road."
While the Wildcats did a better job on the boards early on, it was Tallmadge forward Leah Makuch who did the damage.
Makuch scored eight of her game-high 14 points in the first quarter, establishing the lead for Tallmadge.
Mogadore never led in the first half, but the Wildcats never were more than six points off the pace, using a ball-control offense that helped limit the Blue Devils' offensive chances.
"I think the whole team stepped up tonight," Pollock said.
Down 22-16 at halftime, Mogadore opened the second half on a runs of 5-0 and 11-4 to take a 27-26 lead.
It was guard Brianne Porter who led the charge, scoring of seven of her nine points in the quarter, including a pair of 3s.
Mogadore outscored Tallmadge 18-11 in the third to take the lead 34-33 after three quarters.
Fouls didn't play a role until the final quarter, when Tallmadge took a bunch of trips to the line. The Blue Devils finished 9-of-13 from the charity stripe, compared to 4-of-7 for the Wildcats.
Both teams played ball possession in the final two minutes, setting up a late finish.
Mogadore's Mackenzie Williams hit a putback layup with 32 seconds left to give Mogadore the lead at 41-40, only to have Tallmadge point guard Kelsey Rice score a layup with 18.5 left to make it 42-41.
Rice then made a vital steal on Mogadore's next possession. After calling timeout with 4.2 seconds left, Makuch was sent to the free-throw line after a Mogadore foul.
Makuch calmly drained two free throws to make it 44-41 with 3.3 seconds left.
Mogadore's last chance came when Ashley Barker was forced to heav a three-quarter court 3-pointer as time expired, which fell short.
"In the end, we just made one more play than Mogadore did," Johnson said. "We're getting good shots, but they're just not falling. Shots are contagious, so we they start falling for us, it will be good."
Barker and Naomi Pollock each had 10 points to lead the Wildcats.