Niles lets one get away against WildcatsPublished 4:52am Saturday, December 22, 2012
Niles found a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory Friday night against visiting Mattawan.
Trailing by one point with less than one minute remaining in the game, the Vikings squandered two chances to regain control and went on to drop a 56-54 Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference decision to Mattawan.
The first gaffe came with 45 seconds left on the clock. Mattawan misfired on a free throw, but collected the offensive rebound. With new life, Scottish foreign exchange student Scott Rooney calmly meshed two charity tosses and the Wildcats led, 56-51.
After a clutch 3-point basket by senior Cole Clemens cut the deficit to 56-54 with 15 ticks remaining, the Vikings forced a Mattawan turnover, only to turn the ball over, themselves.
Another missed free throw by Mattawan with 7.3 seconds remaining gave the Vikings one final ray of hope, but senior Alexander Brown’s buzzer-beater from the left corner caromed harmlessly away.
“We had two bad possessions, where both of them could have won the game for us,” Niles coach Todd Pawielski said. “That (offensive rebound) was a big play that cost us some points, and then we tried to run a secondary break at the end with seven seconds left and just a took shot from the corner that we threw off the side of the backboard.
“Effort-wise, I really like what our kids did tonight, but execution-wise we still have some work to do.”
Mattawan senior Tyler Albertson was red-hot in the first quarter. The 6-foot-4 Albertson buried three straight 3-point bombs en route to 11 points, and the Wildcats led, 13-8 after the first eight minutes.
Niles got consecutive triples from Brown and Bice to cut Mattawan’s lead to 19-18 midway through the second quarter, before sophomore Darek Ditto reeled off 10 straight points inside the paint to help the Wildcats seize a 27-22 lead by halftime.
“Tyler got us started at the beginning of the game. He was really efficient,” Mattawan coach Dan Hoff said. “He’s a good shooter and he’s a tough cover when he gets out to the wing. And as a sophomore, Darek has tremendous presence and he just plays with every bit of energy he has.”
Niles (1-4, 1-3 SMAC West) turned up its energy in the third quarter to claw back into the game. A triple by Brown tied the score at 30-30, and his slashing inside bucket staked the hosts to a 36-35 lead heading into the final quarter.
The two teams traded the lead five times through the first five-plus minutes of the fourth quarter, with a long triple by Ditto accounting for the final lead-change with about three minutes remaining.
Brown’s third trey of the game and a short hook by senior Mitchell Dehn cut the Mattawan lead to 52-51 with 1:45 remaining, setting the stage for the disappointing finish by the Vikings.
“This was a pretty fun game to be a part of,” Pawielski said. “We still have to do a better job of limiting our bad and empty possessions and we cannot continue to jump in the air and throw the ball away. We have to do a better job, defensively, of getting matched up early, but give Mattawan credit. They made the shots they needed. That’s a pretty good ball team.
“We played a nice third quarter and gave ourselves a chance to win the ballgame. I thought we competed real well and there was a lot of excitement in the air.”
Brown scored a team-high 15 points for Niles, while junior Tate Brawley chipped in with 11 points. The Vikings shot 42.6 percent from the field, committed 17 turnovers and converted just two of their 10 free-throw tries. Niles outrebounded the taller Wildcats by a 24-20 margin.
Mattawan (2-2, 2-1 SMAC West) got 18 points from Ditto and 17 points from Albertson. The Wildcats turned the ball over 21 times against an often swarming Niles defense, but efficiently converted 58.3 percent of their floor shots (21 of 36).
“It’s been a long time since we’ve won here. It was either 2007 or 2008,” Hoff said. “We’ve played some good (Niles) teams here, and the games have been so close every time. That this one was close didn’t come as a surprise, but it’s certainly great to be on the winning end for a change.”
Zachariah Meyers 3, Darek Ditto 18, Josh Sovine 0, Tyler Albertson 17, Darren Jacks 3, Myles Nesbitt 4, Caleb Doonan 0, Ben Richardson 0, Sawyer Caley 0, Gabe Pelak 6, Scott Rooney 5. TOTALS: 21 9-11 56
Anthony Bice 2, Alexander Brown 15, Tate Brawley 11, Matthew Miller 9, Mitchell Dehn 3, Jesse Jordan 2, Gevanta Nichols 0, Jeremy Wortham 2, Connor Glick 4, Cole Clemens 6. TOTALS: 23 2-10 54
Mattawan 13 27 35 56
Niles 8 22 36 54
3-point goals: Mattawan 7 (Ditto 2, Albertson 4, Jacks), Niles 6 (Brown 3, Brawley, Clemens 2). Total fouls (fouled out): Mattawan 14 (None), Niles 14 (Bice). Technical fouls: None. .Varsity records: Mattawan 2-2 (2-1 SMAC West), Niles 1-4 (1-3 SMAC West)