VIENNA - Mathews' gymnasium is nicknamed "The Shoebox," which is an all too appropriate name for a court that is smaller than most in the area, dimly lit, with bleachers just a foot off the court.
But the Pymatuning Valley Lakers weren't concerned about the difficulty of winning at Mathews on Tuesday night as they seemed to find their comfort within the tight confines with a big fourth quarter in a 63-38 Northeastern Athletic Conference win over the Mathews.
"We're 6-2 at home now," Mathews coach Jason Lee said. "It's hard to win here, but it seems like every year PV comes here and plays great. Last year, they shot 89 percent here. We knew they would shoot well, I just didn't think one kid was going to light it up that big."
Lee was referring to was Tim Cross, who dropped 28 points on the Mustangs (6-7, 4-4) to lead all scorers. Clinging to a 25-20 lead at the half, his three 3s in the third quarter started to open the game up a bit for the Lakers (12-3, 7-2) when it needed some type of momentum to swing the game in their favor.
"Tim has started for me for four years," Pymatuning Valley coach Ryan Fitch said. "He's just our leader on the court. He's just an extension of the head coach. A lot of times, I don't even have to say much. He just knows what he's supposed to do.
"Anytime we start struggling as a team, Tim Cross is probably struggling. Anytime we're doing well, he's probably doing well. He makes us go. He's our gasoline."
Before that engine could get going for the Lakers, Lee felt he needed to change things up for the Mustangs, as they fell behind early and played catchup in a 66-46 setback to the Lakers earlier this month.
"In the first half, we did a nice job of boxing them out and rebounding," Lee said. "In the second half, they got a lot of second chance points. The fouls shots were in their favor even though we played a great first three quarters."
Still, in that opening quarter, the Mustangs found success attacking the paint with some early buckets from Andy Morgan that got Mathews an early 6-3 lead and caused some early issues with the Lakers defense.
"They have some really nice guards that can get the ball to the rim and get in gaps," Fitch said. "We talked about trying to contain the dribble drive a little bit. We over helped in the first half and they were able to kick it for some wide open jump shots. We wanted to make their smaller guards finish."
Mathews opened the second quarter with a 7-2 run to give the team its last lead (17-16) of the game as the Lakers methodically kept increasing their advantage throughout the second half.
That was until they blew the game wide open outscoring the Mustangs 17-3 in the final quarter with Mathews first field goal coming with 2:04 left in the game.
"Coach Lee did a nice job of coming out and pressuring us," Fitch said. "On this type of court, if you can pressure, it can cause some turnovers. We were able to make some adjustments in the second half and come away with a victory."