Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012, 11:09 pm

Orion sweats out win; Eagles, Geese nab first Warkins victories

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By Terry Duckett,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert
Mercer County stand-out Tanner Matlick tries to score against host Erie at the Warkins Cardinal Classic, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, at the Erie High School gym.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Welvaert
Wethersfield senior forward Javonte Hollowell scores on a layup in Wethersfield match up against West Carroll at the Warkins Cardinal Classic, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, at the Erie High School gym.
ERIE -- Over the years, the Orion boys' basketball team has come to make the Cliff Warkins Memorial Cardinal Classic title its own, with five straight crowns and six titles in the last seven years.

Wednesday night, the Chargers had to get defensive to stay on the title track at the 11th annual Warkins event here. After sweating out a defensive struggle with Stark County for three quarters, Orion used a quick opening blast in the fourth period to earn a 43-39 victory over the Rebels.

"We had one little spurt where we got some turnovers in the fourth quarter and were able to score off of them,'' said Orion coach Brent Hutton, whose club improves to 9-5. "We've had a few of these games where we've gone down the stretch and didn't finish, and as tough as we were defensively for three quarters, we were letting them drive the lane in the fourth.''

Senior forward Austin Anderson sparked the Chargers to start the final period. With the game knotted at 21, the 6-foot-4 Anderson scored all five of his points in the opening minutes of the fourth to put his team up 26-21. From there, Stark County could only get as close as one, although the Rebels kept the heat on Orion.

"Austin played strong. He gave us a good spark in the fourth at a time when we really needed it,'' said Hutton, who got a game-high 11 points from Dylan Schultz. "We've got to be smarter down the stretch, both coaching- and playing-wise.''

While Orion was staying perfect in the tournament, the Mercer County Golden Eagles (5-5) were getting in the win column at the expense of tournament host Erie (9-6). Led by a game-high 21 points from Tanner Matlick, the Eagles soared past the Cardinals 51-41.

Up 28-20 at halftime, Mercer County watched Erie close the gap to six points entering the final period, but the Cardinals couldn't get over the hump despite a 15-point night from Jacob Johnston, with Rhett Stover adding 10 points on his 18th birthday.

"We took better care of the ball, rebounded fairly well and did a better job overall,'' said Eagles' coach Brian Hutton, who also got 11 points from Zach Aldinger. "We're still in the beginning stages of what we can become. I still think we can be a championship team in the (Lincoln Trail Conference), but we've got to take care of business every night.''

Looking to remove the bad taste in their mouths from last Saturday's 15-point setback to Bureau Valley in their Warkins opener, the Wethersfield Flying Geese got back on track against West Carroll as Trevor Lay drained three 3-pointers and netted 15 points in a 65-35 victory.

With Kegan Jacobson notching a game-high 16 points for the Geese and Trey Hannam adding 10, Wethersfield gave itself some breathing room in the second quarter, turning a slim two-point edge into a 29-15 halftime lead.

"We just didn't guard anybody Saturday night,'' said Wethersfield coach Jeff Parsons. "I expect greatness from them on defense every night. The message (Wednesday) was: you're going to guard someone or you're not playing. The kids responded well, and I'm proud of them.''

After winning its Warkins opener this past weekend, Morrison didn't fare as well in its return to tournament action, falling 55-40 to Stockton as the Blackhawks stayed perfect in tourney play. Led by Alexander Volckmann's nine points, the Mustangs trailed by just four points after the first quarter, but Stockton was able to widen its lead to 32-22 by halftime.

Knoxville also moved to 2-0 in the Warkins boys' standings by holding off West Carroll, 59-58.