Near-perfect free-throw shooting lifts Mathews

VIENNA In the battle of Mustangs Friday night, Mathews had much more horsepower than Grand Valley, using a pair of big runs and near-perfect free throw shooting to earn a 67-42 victory.

Mathews went on a 16-0 run in the first quarter, turning a 7-3 deficit into a 19-7 lead it would never relinquish. The Mustangs added an 11-0 run spanning the second and third quarters that extended their lead to 43-20. They capped the night by going 24 of 26 from the foul line.

“We couldn’t hit a foul shot to save our life against PV (Pymatuning Valley),” Mathews coach Jason Lee said. “Grand Valley comes to town and we hit 24 of 26. Until late, we’d only missed one the entire game until the final minute.

“We really stressed foul shots. I think everybody that hit foul shots stood out.”

Cobie Pratt helped spark the first-quarter run. He converted a three-point play for a 10-7 advantage, then hit a 3-pointer to give Mathews (7-9, 5-5 Northeastern Athletic Conference, Stars Division) a 15-7 lead.

“I think Cobie Pratt had nine points right around that run and everybody else was finished right around the hole. It was a nice combination,” Lee said.

Grand Valley coach Luke Strohm said his team can take some positives away from the tough defeat.

“We came out and took the very early lead and I thought we did a good job of executing our game plan, playing our tempo, being very patient on offense,” he said. “We actually did a pretty good job of handling their pressure. We just missed a few shots. They grabbed a couple big offensive rebounds. We started to get a little impatient as far as the tempo goes.

“The most positive aspect is when we executed things the way that we should and the way we do in practice, we got the easy looks and we got good looks at the bucket. We broke the press with very little problems. When we executed, things went very well.”

Andy Morgan added a pair of putback baskets in the first quarter, the second giving the Mustangs a 23-9 lead. He finished with a team-high 16 points, including 9 of 9 on free throws.

“I think the guys kind of transitioned and saw a little bit better what they were giving us,” Lee said. “Instead of shooting those outside shots, we were taking what they were giving us. I think we were mixing it up a little bit, inside and outside.”

Grand Valley (2-12, 2-7) tried to get back in the game in the second quarter. Zack Oscar scored to pull the Mustangs within 28-18, but Mathews pulled away for a 38-20 halftime lead.

Jake Vormelker led Grand Valley with 17 points. He scored seven points in the third quarter, but Mathews was able to extend its advantage to 54-31.