Originally Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2012, 9:24 pm
Last Updated: Dec. 27, 2012, 11:31 pm

Several area clubs stay hot on Warkins' title trail

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By Terry Duckett, tduckett@qconline.com

ERIE — With two days to go at the 11th annual Cliff Warkins Memorial Cardinal Classic boys' basketball tournament, Orion remains perfect.

But while the Chargers had to fend off a ferocious second-half Morrison comeback, winning 55-54 when a last-second Mustang shot missed the mark, several other clubs made their presence felt Thursday as they attempted to stake a claim to a spot in Saturday's championship finals.

Bureau Valley (11-6) moved to within one win of a spot in the title game with a pair of Thursday victories. After rolling past Knoxville 63-46 behind Parker Neuhalfen's 20 points, the Storm blitzed West Carroll 62-34 as Hunter Klemme drained four 3-pointers and finished with 13 points.

"It's tough to play two games, but I thought our kids had the right attitude going in," said BV coach Jason Marquis. "We didn't make excuses; we persevered and played hard."

Wethersfield (10-2) also stayed hot on the Warkins title trail after weathering a 23-point barrage from Riverdale senior guard Jared Richmond to outgun the Rams 83-66 as five Flying Geese scored in double figures, led by Trevor Lay's 17 points.

"Offensively, we played better, but we're still not shooting the 3 like we can," said Wethersfield coach Jeff Parsons. "We played good defense, but Riverdale had a lot of shots. We knew they'd shoot well and that they'd never give up. We preach a lot about defense, but when they're making shots with hands in their faces, we need to rely on our offense."

Mitchell Sand (13 points) and Cole Solomon (10) also hit double figures for Riverdale (6-6), but it wasn't enough to overcome a 45-32 halftime deficit. Trey Hannam notched 13 for the Geese, with Kegan Jacobson and Zach VanWassenhove tallying 12 points apiece.

Another team staying hot on the heels of the tournament leaders is Mercer County, which went above .500 for the first time this season at 6-5 after handling Stockton 62-35, leaving both clubs at 2-1 in the Warkins pool standings.

"Unfortunately, we laid an egg against Orion (last Saturday)," said Mercer County coach Brian Hutton of his team's bid for a finals' berth. "Give them credit, but at the same time, we didn't play smart basketball. Right now for us, the big thing is continuing to build toward the (season's) second half."

Defense was the name of the game for the Golden Eagles as they held the Blackhawks to single-digit scoring in all but the third quarter. Mercer County's balanced offense was led by Tyson Nylin's game-high 15 points. Tanner Matlick and Austin Hyett added 12 and 11 points, respectively.

"I'll tell you what, I was very pleased with our defense," said Hutton. "That was a very good offensive club we just played, and to hold them to 35 points, that's a nice job. All of the kids played very disciplined defense."

Orion (10-5) watched a 38-27 halftime lead vanish as the Mustangs (4-12) hit their stride behind Matt Wilkens (16 points, four 3-pointers), Hunter Hamstra (14 points) and Will Greul (11 points). A 17-point outing by senior standout Dylan Schultz helped Orion hold on down the stretch.

Erie (10-6) earned its first tournament victory as senior standout Jacob Johnston cut loose for 30 points to help the Cardinals edge past Stark County 58-55. Rhett Stover added 10 for the hosts to help them offset a 22-point game by the Rebels' Jake Berchtold.

"I told the guys that winning or losing isn't our main focus anymore," said Erie coach Ryan Winckler. "Maybe our guys were too focused on having to win, rather than doing the things that got them there. Competing on every possession, that's how you win, and from the beginning, Jacob was aggressive, which we need. That opens things up for other people."