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Mustangs knock out EOAC champs

SALINEVILLE — It was a back and forth game all night, but in the end, No. 12 seed Mathews split a pair of free throws in a tie game with three seconds left to defeat No. 9 seed Southern 57-56 in a Division IV sectional semifinal on Tuesday.

Southern falls to 14-6 on the season and Mathews moves to 14-8. Mathews will advance to play at No. 3 seed Heartland Christian at 7 p.m. Friday.

Southern’s Brock Smalley hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 56 with 30 seconds left and then Mathews’ Vincent Greenwood was fouled with 3 seconds left on an offensive rebound. Greenwood hit the first and missed the second free throw and the Indians did not get a shot up, ending the game.

Mathews led 31-27 at the half but Southern used a huge third quarter to take a 45-36 lead into the final quarter. Southern however could not capitalize on some opportunities to put the game away and Mathews got back into the game halfway through the final quarter.

“In the first half, we just weren’t making shots,” Southern coach Gerard Grimm said. “We got some of the things we wanted to get and we knew some of the things they were going to do defensively. They were going to switch through a bunch of different defenses and we were just a little discombobulated to start the game.”

“Games like this are really tough because we don’t know much about them and they don’t know much about us,” Mathews coach Michael Weymer said. “You know tendencies but you don’t know much more than that so we tried to mix it up. We have been primarily a man to man team this year and we came out and ran a 2-3 zone and some other zone variations to give them different looks.”

Weymer added “we wanted to make them think a little more.”

Even though Mathews lost its halftime lead, staying within themselves was important in its comeback.

“This team all year hasn’t quit, we have come back from bigger deficits than that,” Weymer said. “We only have one senior and a lot of underclassmen and we have really been galvanized by our senior Kyle (Powell) and I think these guys just didn’t want him to be done.”

For Southern, Brock Smalley had 21 points and eight rebounds and Brad Sloan had 12 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

Dominic Greenwood and Vinny Sharp led Mathews with 21 and 17 points, respectively.

“For us, it was important to keep our heads up high when we had guys go down to COVID or injuries,” Sloan said about the season. “Us being able to keep our momentum all the way through and play it as just another regular season was big for us.

“Coming into this playoff game, we knew we had a tough road and had to give it as much as we could even with the circumstances. “

Mathews took 34 free throws and made it hard for the Indians to play the transition game they love to play.

“They shot a lot of free throws in the fourth quarter and that slowed us down on the defensive end,” Grimm said. “On the offensive end, we just had so many opportunities roll of the back and the front of the rim and just not being able to get that one bucket to put a nail in the whole thing.”

Another key in this game for Mathews was offensive rebounds off missed free throws.

“Sometimes, just the other team is going to be a little more physical and the ball bounces their way,” Grimm said.

Even with the loss, Southern still fought off three different COVID pauses and a late start to the season to win a league title, the first in school history.

“That just shows we are more than just a group of individuals on the court at one time,” Sloan said. “It shows that we have a commitment to one another and we can play through situations. Even if we are down, we can keep our poise and play through any adversity that comes our way.”

“It’s just a tough group of kids who really play for each other and genuinely love each other,” Grimm said.

Game notes

¯ The Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference went 2-5 in boys sectional openers Tuesday. Wellsville and Valley Christian were the winners.

Lisbon — which got a first-round bye — will play at Wellsville on Friday.

¯ Josh Pratt didn’t play due to a medical issue, according to coach Grimm.

¯ Brock Smalley rolled his ankle midway through the fourth quarter, but stayed in the game.

¯ Heartland defeated Mathews 63-61 on Feb 12.

MATHEWS: 15-16- 5-21–57

SOUTHERN: 12-15-18-11–56

MATHEWS SCORING: Isaiah Munno 0-0-0, Ethan Petak 1-0-2, Vinny Sharp 8-1-17, Heydon Matheny 1-0-3, Kyle Powell 1-1-3, Dominic Greenwood 6-8-21, Vincent Greenwood 1-4-6, Jacob Williams 0-0-0, Tyler Hopkinson 2-1-5. TEAM TOTALS: 20, 15-34: 57.

SOUTHERN SCORING: Brock Smalley 8-3-21, Timmy West 4-1-9, Brad Sloan 5-2-12, Brady Ketchum 0-5-5, Colton Soukup 0-0-0, Sam May 2-0-4, James Burris 1-0-2, Michai Mason 1-0-3. TEAM TOTALS: 21, 11-22: 56.

Three-point goals: Mathews 2 (Matheny, D. Greenwood), Southern 3 (Smalley 2, Mason).

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