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Cambridge ends Potter hoops season

EAST LIVERPOOL — In a game between two towering and talented boys’ basketball teams, it was Cambridge which made the key plays at the end to upend East Liverpool 49-43 in a DII sectional championship boys’ basketball game in Potter Fieldhouse Saturday night.

“Their coach and I talked before the game and we thought the game was all about pace,” explained East Liverpool head coach Nate Conley. “If it was in the 40s (it favored them and if it was in the 60s it favored the Potters). But I told the team you don’t win playoff games in the 60s, especially against a Cambridge team which was extremely under-seeded in the tournament. They’ve had a rough year quarantine-wise. I thought they were the favorite coming into this season.”

Cambridge coach Andy Slaughter praised his club for taking control with the game on the line.

“Our guys did a great job of keeping their emotions in check, because that was a very emotional game,” said Slaughter. “It was a chippy game, back and forth both ways, and our guys did a great job of controlling themselves and keeping themselves in check and being able to get after it and fighting hard for a victory.”

The loss ended the Potters season at 11-9.

Cambridge, which missed 40 days of practice this winter during COVID-19 quarantines and was 4-8 at one point in the season, improved to 9-9, The Bobcats advance to a district semifinal date next Wednesday at 7 p.m. at West Holmes, which advanced Saturday night with a 57-54 win over Tri-Valley.

Saturday’s setback was especially tough for East Liverpool, which played well enough to win, but a couple key turnovers late hurt the Potters.

“We had it (the win) right there but we had some crucial turnovers,” said Conley. “It was tough, I thought we played tough, we just didn’t make plays at the end of the game.”

The Bobcats were led by a sterling performance by 6-6 forward Dominic Cork, who took game-scoring honors with 32 points, including Cambridge’s final six points of the game in the final 1:25. All six of those points came via free throws. Caleb Bond added eight points for the Bobcats.

“You can’t say enough about Dom Cork,” lauded Slaughter. “I looked up (at the scoreboard) and see 32 for the night. He was 3-for-10 in the paint in the first half and a lot of people could’ve folded right there for the night and he didn’t do that. He battled through that adversity and that’s a tribute to how great of a kid he is. He just had a phenomenal night tonight and I believe a career-high (in points).”

“Cork is a college (type) basketball player,” said Conley. “He’s transformed his body from his junior to his senior year. That’s something we talked about that we need to do. They (the Bobcats) are just tough and physical down low.”

East Liverpool was paced by 6-6 Cole Dailey with 13 points, including three of the Potters’ five three-pointers on the night, while 6-6 Zavea Green and point guard Devin Toothman had nine markers apiece and Cam Beverly finished with eight points.

“It was a great basketball game and hats off to Cambridge because I thought it was a fun, clean basketball game,” said Conley. “That (playing deliberate on offense) is how they like to play and we fed right into it.”

Cambridge, which was extremely patient on offense, trailed the Potters 35-32 heading into the fourth quarter and was down by as many as six points (38-32) following a three-pointer by Dailey with 7:20 left. But the Bobcats eventually caught the Potters at 39-39 following a fielder by Cork with 4:53 remaining. East Liverpool had three costly turnovers in the next four-plus minutes and Cambridge went on a 6-1 run to go up 45-40 with 27.9 seconds left. Dailey brought the Potters back when he drained a three to cut it to 45-43 with 19.2 seconds showing. But Cork stepped to the line and drained a pair of free throws twice in the remaining time to pull off the upset.

In the first half, the Potters zipped out to a 7-0 lead, following a layup by Beverly at the 3:41 mark of the first period. Cambridge didn’t hit its first point until Cork hit two free throws at the 3:15 mark, cutting the Potters’ lead to 7-2. East Liverpool went on to a 10-4 lead after one period.

But momentum began to change in the second quarter as the Potters went cold from the outside against the Bobcats’ zone. The Potters also had five turnovers in the second period as Cambridge, led by Cork who had 12 points in the first half, went on a 12-3 run and took its first lead of the game at 16-13 with 1:43 left before intermission. East Liverpool cut the deficit to one point (16-15) at halftime.

“All of our guys did some really big things,” said Slaughter. “Everybody who played did a really good job of being themselves in their roles and we’re excited to get back in the gym and play some more basketball.”

Conley loves the potential his tall East Liverpool team possesses, especially with a large number of veterans returning next winter

“It was a weird season,” he said. “I was happy to see the kids play. We have a lot of potential on this basketball team and I wish they would have had a regular summer to get ready for this season, but those are all excuses, we still have to perform on the court. But Liverpool people should be proud of the product we’re going to put on the court next year.”

CAMBRIDGE: 4-12-16-17-49

EAST LIVERPOOL: 10-5-20-8-43

CAMBRIDGE SCORING: Caleb Bond 3-0-8, Caden Moore 1-0-3, Sean Perkins 1-0-2, Colton Slaughter 0-0-0, Dominic Cork 10-10-32, Brock Valentine 1-2-4. TEAM TOTALS: 16, 12-16: 49

EAST LIVERPOOL SCORING: Chance Stull 1-0-2, Preston Kerr 0-0-0, Cole Dailey 5-0-13, Devin Toothman 2-4-9, Zavea Green 4-1-9, Jake Smith 1-0-2, Jamar Allen 0-0-0, Cam Beverly 3-1-8, Jerone Deal 0-0-0, Mason Ludwig 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 16, 6-16: 43

Three-point goals: Cambridge 5 (Caleb Bond 2, Dominick Cork 2, Caden Moore 1); East Liverpool 5 (Cole Dailey 3, Cam Beverly 1, Devin Toothman 1)

Total fouls: Cambridge 13, East Liverpool 14.

Fouled out: none

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