By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
The identity of the Mogadore boys basketball team immediately shifted when senior Mason Williams was ruled out for the remainder of the season for surgery to repair an injured shoulder that had plagued him for years.
Williams likely would have celebrated his 1,000th career point and 700th career rebound this season.
Not that he would have dominated the offense, which is rare for any one player to do in a Russ Swartz coached team, but realistically, he would have been a focal point of the offense.
The Wildcats showed on Friday just how far they have adjusted without their all-league performer and have found a formula that does not require one player to replace Williams’ production, but instead a collection of efforts.
You could argue that it is more devastating than having one standout player.
Just ask the Southeast Pirates, who were in the eye of the storm on Friday during the Wildcats’ 69-44 Portage Trail Conference victory.
After a passive first 10 minutes of the game, the Wildcats received a spark from senior Nick Coffman in the middle of the second quarter that jolted the team in an energetic direction that ultimately buried the Pirates.
Coffman scored nine second-quarter points that ignited a 15-0 run that turned Southeast’s 17-16 lead into a 31-17 advantage for the Wildcats.
Halftime did little to slow Mogadore.
The Cats came out and blitzed the Pirates in the third quarter, using a pair of 3-pointers from Butler that sandwiched a 3 by Coffman to open the second half on an 11-3 run.
“The start of the third quarter was big for us,” said Swartz, whose team stole the Pirates’ inbounds pass to start the third and turned it into Butler’s first 3-pointer. “We felt like that start could make or break the game. (Southeast) could have cut the lead to six or eight or we could build the lead by six or eight more. Our guys responded well.”
By the end of the third quarter, Mogadore (7-2, 3-1 PTC) had made eight field goals on eight assists.
The sharing was not unique to the third quarter, though.
For the game, Mogadore assisted 23 of its 28 made field goals, with Layne Miller leading the way with eight assists and Butler had five. In total six Mogadore players had two or more assists in the game.
The ball movement and the player movement was stunning.
“We have a variety of players that can shoot, passs and handle the ball,” Mogadore head coach Russ Swartz said. “When we execute, we are a solid team because we force teams to have to guard a lot of people. That is our system. It is what we do, and how we want to play.”
The philosophy created opportunity after opportunity and made the game look so effortless that Southeast head coach Mike Matisi questioned if the Wildcats had even exhausted themselves in the win.
“I feel like (Mogadore) could play another four quarters right now,” Matisi said. “Defensively, they had us chasing all night. I actually thought we did a decent job on our switches, but our on-ball defense faltered a lot tonight.”
Matisi admitted that he felt the game slipping away during the middle of the second quarter when Coffman sparked the Cats.
“We got down about five or six, and I told the team that it is go time now,” Matisi said. “They may not have felt it, but I did, that time was truly it that if we did not get a couple of stops and a couple of scores that the game could get away from us and it did. I just think we missed a ton of opportunities tonight to play team basketball and it caught up to us quick.”
Mogaodre outscored Southeast 22-7 in the second quarter, then the Cats followed it up with another 22-point third quarter to take a 53-32 lead into the fourth.
As expected with the amount of assists, the Cats’ scoring column was a balanced one.
Coffman led the way with 16 points, while Miller added 13, Butler scored 12 and Dillon Pendergast finished with seven points. In total, eight different Mogadore players scored in the game.
Miller, Coffman and Pendergast all had three steals each, while Nick Stephenson was the Cats’ top rebounder with eight.
Southeast (3-6, 0-3 PTC) was led by junior Garrett Sprutte’s 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Evan Riffle had 10 points, with Carson Dunn distributing five assists.
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