MOGADORE: Top-seeded Mogadore is renowned for its offense, but in the Wildcats’ 92-35 win over No. 13 Cleveland St. Martin de Porres in the Division IV Barberton sectional final Friday, their defense also proved particularly stout.
Never mind the fact that 11 Wildcats scored Friday night, or the fact that they’re averaging 24 points a quarter in their two playoff games. It was the defense, coach Russ Swartz said, that sets everything up.
“We’re at our best when we can score in transition, which is why we’ve got to get defensive stops, rebound the ball and create turnovers,” Swartz said.
The Wildcats (22-2) held the Lions (6-16) scoreless until under two minutes remained in the first quarter, by which point Mogadore had already put 14 points on the board.
The Lions went to the free-throw line just once in the first half and four times in the game. The Wildcats also tallied five blocks, three of them by senior forward Andrew Barker.
In other words, the Wildcats just played clean, suffocating defense, and by halftime held a commanding 41-14 lead.
“We had to try to create tempo by pressing and trapping a little bit, but once we starting doing that, we caused a ton of turnovers, which obviously led to easy baskets for us,” Swartz said. “It’s why we scored so many points.”
The Mogadore offense went on a whole slew of notable runs — of 14, 11 and 12 unanswered points — throughout the game. Junior Kole Jaber led the way with 17 points, and junior Jarad Dunn, Barker and senior Stephen Stott contributed 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively.
“We’re unselfish and we constantly look for the open guy,” Swartz said. “The other thing is, we’ve got a variety of guys who can make plays and make plays. When you have that, you’re going to be successful, which we’ve been.”
The Wildcats advanced to play Richmond Heights — a 53-52 winner over Lake Center Christian on Friday — in a district semifinal at 6:15 p.m. Monday at Barberton High School.
Despite two consecutive blowout wins in the tournament, Swartz said his team — a district champion last season — isn’t going to relax for the remainder of the postseason.
“Our guys are smart enough … and understand each round gets a little bit tougher and tougher,” Swartz said. “You’ve got to have your ‘A’ game, because as soon as you don’t, you unfortunately lose, you go home, and it’s a quick end to a long season.”
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