Mason Williams powers Mogadore to victory over Lake Center


MOGADORE — Mason Williams asserted himself in the football postseason.

The Wildcats' big man asserted himself late in Saturday's basketball game as well.

Williams scored nine of Mogadore's last 12 points as it held off Lake Center Christian, 64-61, in a Portage Trail Conference contest Saturday afternoon.

Williams was solid in the first three quarters, tallying 10 points and eight rebounds, as the Tigers expended plenty of effort (and fouls) trying to keep the junior in check.

Williams, who finished with 21 points and 14 boards, simply couldn't be stopped come crunch time, scoring 11 points in the final five-and-a-half minutes for the Wildcats (2-1, 1-1 PTC).

"We did a good job of looking for him," Mogadore coach Russ Swartz said. "We just got to continue to do that because obviously we're a little different. We got to go inside off the pass this year versus always off the dribble. Usually if we go inside, it's off the dribble in the past with our guards and so forth, but when we got a 6-4 post kid, we got to use him and he's got skills."

Skills aplenty as Williams went 8-of-12 from the field, including 2-of-3 from deep.

When Charlie Christopher put LCC up 54-52 minutes into the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, Williams answered with a 3-pointer of his own, off an assist from Mogadore senior Mason Murphy.

When Anthony Williamson found Ethan Bower for a go-ahead bucket on a baseline inbound, Williams put the Wildcats back ahead, as Corey Lehner came down with a key offensive rebound of a missed Murphy free throw and shoveled a pass to Williams for a layup.

On the Wildcats' next possession, Williams took a lob from Nick Coffman and deftly waited for two defenders to fly over him before going up for a layup and a 59-56 advantage.

Twice, LCC drew within a point.

The first time, Layne Miller responded with a 3-pointer with 1:30 remaining.

The next time, Williams finished a layup with a defender in his face with 52 seconds left.

That proved to be enough as the Tigers missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Still, LCC coach Greg Bryte couldn't be too upset after his team rallied from as much as 13 down in the first half thanks to a 28-point explosion in the third quarter.

"I'm proud of my team, the way they played in the second half for sure," Bryte said. "We've been up a couple of times and not played such great halves so far this season and we put together a whole game today and just came up a shot short."

Matt Warder, Lake Center make it a game in the third quarter

Through most of the first half, the Wildcats held the Tigers in check, cutting off pretty much all driving lanes. Indeed, LCC's first 14 points came off four 3-pointers and a putback. Even the Tigers' first bucket on the drive, midway through the second stanza, required a rather remarkable finish as Matt Warder slashed in from the elbow and swished a shot through contact.

Down 30-17, LCC started to gain momentum toward the end of the first half, as Bower drained a short pull-up jumper and Warder tacked on a putback to cut within 30-21 at the break.

The Tigers and Warder, in particular, were just getting started.

Warder, held to five points in the first half, had 11 in the third quarter alone.

Trailing 33-25, Warder was fouled after snagging a baseline inbound and hit both free throws, then Bower and Warder had back-to-back impressive fast-break finishes, with Warder showcasing a particularly lethal Euro step.

"He makes things happen," Bryte said of Warder. "He gets out in passing lanes. We work on that a lot, and he's the best one at it, and also he's just got long arms. He can pick somebody's pocket. He had one of those and he's best when he's out in the open floor, for sure. That's how he can score and he's good at that kind of thing and it got us momentum."

The transition game proved to be key all quarter for the Tigers as the Wildcats started turning the ball over and missing 3-pointers, all of which created fast-break chances for the visitors.

After trailing for pretty much the entire opening 19:20, LCC tied the score midway through the third, as Bower drained a step-back 3 to draw within one, then following a runner from Aiden Hiney to push the Mogadore lead to three, Williamson knocked down a 3 to knot the score at 37.

Aiden Hiney, Mason Williams deliver in the clutch

From there on out, it was a tight ballgame.

Indeed, the Tigers even led by as much as four points.

Down 41-37 midway through the third quarter, Williams hit a timely 3.

With the Wildcats trailing 43-40, Hiney slashed in from the right wing and slickly banked a shot home right as he drew contact for a game-tying 3-point play.

Hiney, who was superb on defense and as a facilitator in the first half, picked up the scoring load as the Wildcats tried to hold off a surging Tigers team in the third quarter. Indeed, the senior guard accounted for eight of Mogadore's 16 third-quarter points.

"It's nice because we've always had strong guards with the ball and so forth," Swartz said. "He's a little different type of point guard than what we normally have, but he does a wonderful job and I can't say enough about his defense. He's phenomenal defensively."

Together, Hiney, Williams and Murphy provided 29 of the Wildcats' 34 second-half points.

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