By Jim Manion | Correspondent
The 2013 dream season of the Mogadore Wildcats girls basketball team came to a close Wednesday night at Cuyahoga Falls High School.
The Wildcats were eliminated in the Division III Regional semifinals 53-48 by Beachwood in a contest that could have gone either way. The Mogadore girls stood tall and took every punch the Bison had to offer and continually fought back to take the game to the wire.
The Wildcats kept the game close despite the fact they had two long spells when the offense was shut down. After leading 11-8 in the first quarter, the Cats did not score again until after the four-minute mark of the second quarter, going over six minutes without scoring.
Again in the fourth period, Mogadore went almost four minutes without scoring. However, with only 22 seconds remaining in the game, Beachwood held just a two-point lead at 50-48.
"I thought we played well and sure didn't give up," said Mogadore first-year coach Tom Pollock. "I thought it was a great game that could have went our way if we hit a couple shots. (Beachwood) is very patient when they get a lead and I knew that. I think they were a little more physical than us and that got them some points inside. That was the difference in the game."
Beachwood hit a pair of 3-pointers at the end of the first quarter that turned an 11-8 Mogadore advantage into a 14-11 Bison lead as the quarter came to a close.
Mogadore (12-14) outscored Beachwood 6-3 in the second quarter. Wildcat senior Makenzie Williams stepped up defensively with a pair of steals and three points before junior teammate Ashley Barker hit a 3 with two seconds on the clock to lock the score at 17-17 at the half.
Beachwood used the 3-ball in the third quarter to gain the biggest lead of the contest, 29-25. But with 2:16 remaining in the quarter, Mogadore junior Naomi Pollock cashed in with her second 3 of the game to lock the score at 30-30.
Beachwood (24-2) maintained a one- and two-point lead throughout the fourth quarter until the Bison pulled away at the three-minute mark and appeared ready to close out the Wildcats. The Bison, behind the efforts of Aneisha Hardin, pushed their lead to six points with one minute left, but Barker stepped up for the Cats and hit a 3 with 51 seconds remaining and then scored a pair of free throws before Naomi Pollock drilled a 3 from well behind the arc.
Naomi Pollock's basket came with only 12 seconds on the clock and pulled the Wildcats to within two at 50-48. However, Hardin hit two free throws in the final 12 seconds to help secure the game for her team.
Hardin led the Bison offensively with 19 points and drove inside three times in the fourth quarter to answer every Mogadore bucket.
Mikah Aldridge finished the night with 15 points for Beachwood, while Christina Oden scored five points but pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds.
Barker led Mogadore with 18 points, while Naomi Pollock and Williams each scored 11. Williams also had 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats started this season by losing their first nine games, but once they put the pieces together and started climbing the Portage Trail Conference ladder, they won 12 of their last 17 games.
"Once we got healthy and the girls got to understand their roles a little better, we started jelling and playing like we knew we could," said coach Pollock. "We knew that we couldn't win the league because of the (poor) start, but we started playing well and this has been a nice run for us."