Canton South nearly lets lead slip away before holding on to beat Coshocton during the Mercy Medical Center Classic.
The learning continues for the Canton South High School boys basketball team, and Sunday’s lesson nearly was a painful one.
The Wildcats, shaken a bit from two straight losses, almost blew a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter during the Mercy Medical Center Classic at Hoover High School.
South held on for a 64-58 win against a young, sub-.500 Coshocton team. The Wildcats started the season 11-0, then lost their last two games to NBC opponents Alliance and Marlington. In both losses, South saw leads disappear.
After Sunday’s lackluster effort in the fourth quarter, head coach Frank Spotleson’s “talk” with his Wildcats reverberated through the walls of their locker room and into the hallway.
“We really need to learn to finish games,” South senior Kyle Deckerd said. “... We don’t squash the bug.”
South (12-2) has been the feel-good story of the season in Stark County. A group of kids on its third head coach in three years finally is enjoying some success. A proud basketball school has reason to swell its chest after falling on hard times.
Sunday’s game provided a reminder for the Wildcats not to get carried away.
“It’s a paradox in the fact that I have guys with so much experience, but they have no experience with what we’re trying to do,” Spotleson said. “They have four years of experience playing basketball games, but this is a new program and a new system to them. Winning is certainly new to them.
“Obviously, we’re still learning and we still have a long way to go.”
South’s pressure defense helped build a lead that grew to as many as 18 points late in the third quarter on Deckerd’s 3-pointer.
The lead still was at 17 when Austin Jolliff knocked down a 3 with 7:05 left in the fourth. It was the first of two important 3s in the fourth quarter from South’s 6-foot-4 senior center.
“I did not know he could hit the 3 like that,” Coshocton head coach Tom Hilgenberg said.
Down 13 with 2:36 left, the Redskins started chipping away and playing with desperation. “Aggressiveness and being physical,” is how Hilgenberg described it.
Coshocton senior Tanner Cognion scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth to lead the comeback.
The Wildcats seemed like they were coasting at this point. They wasted some good looks and committed a few bad turnovers.
“Our effort has to be the same from the start of the game to the end,” Spotleson said. “The effort waned again, and that’s a pattern we have to break.”
South missed four straight free throws in the game’s final minute as the Redskins got as close as 63-58. Coshocton missed two looks at cutting the game to a single possession with less than 30 seconds left.
Page 2 of 2 - Deckerd scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half to help keep the Redskins at bay. He added four assists.
Senior backcourt mate Armand Fontes scored 13 of his team-high 18 points in the first half before Coshocton started paying him more attention. Fontes also had team highs of five assists and three steals.
Jolliff finished with 13 points. He and Trey Taylor grabbed nine rebounds each. Taylor and Josh Lyon scored eight points apiece for a South team that didn’t get a point from its bench.
Senior Curtis Blake scored 24 points and kept the Redskins (5-9) in the game throughout. Sophomore Patrick Brouse added 10 points off the bench.
Canton South 64, Coshocton 58
Mercy Medical Center Classic
at Hoover High School
COSHOCTON (5-9) Corder 2 3-4 7, Brouse 3 4-5 10, Blake 10 1-1 24, Brown 2 0-0 4, Cognion 4 3-6 11, Roahrig 0 2-2 2. Totals 21-52 13-18 58.
CANTON SOUTH (12-2) Fontes 7 1-2 18, Deckerd 7 0-2 17, Lyon 3 2-4 8, Taylor 3 2-4 8, Jolliff 5 1-2 13. Totals 25-51 6-14 64.
Coshocton 8 11 14 25 — 58
Canton South 19 12 16 17 — 64
3-point goals—Fontes 3, Deckerd 3, Blake 3, Jolliff 2. Fouls—13-13. Fouled out—none. Rebounds—Coshocton 28 (Cognion 10), Canton South 31 (Jolliff 9, Taylor 9).