By Pete Chiodo
MILLCREEK TOWNSHIP —
Judging by the comments in the home stands, McDowell’s basketball fans came to Wednesday night’s game against Meadville expecting a shellacking like the one the Trojans handed out to Franklin, 65-29, this past Saturday.
Instead, Meadville gave the bigger, deeper Trojans a real run for their money.
McDowell still got the win. But the Bulldogs put up an admirable scrap in a 69-59 defeat.
“Going in, I was really afraid of getting beaten up physically,” said Meadville head coach Norm Price. “I had heard what (McDowell) did this weekend. And they was just, physically, way stronger than us.
“But I told the kids after the game that, first, I thought the better team won. They were better than we were. But second, I thought the game was a good game because we played 32 minutes, we played as hard as we could, and except for some mistakes that can be corrected, I really was not that disappointed with anybody. It was a very hard-fought game.”
Meadville drops to 2-1 on the year with the loss. And Norm Price’s career coaching wins still stand at 399. He and the Bulldogs will go for No. 400 on Friday when they open up Region 5 play against Sharon at the House of Thrills.
“Big one on Friday,” said Price. “I watched them (on Tuesday, the Tigers downed Mercyhurst Prep 68-53). They’re a good team. It’s going to be a tough game.”
McDowell, meanwhile, improves to 3-0 under the direction of first-year head coach and former Cambridge Springs assistant Kevin O’Connor.
“We looked nice at times,” said O’Connor. “But Meadville took us out. We put them on the foul line a few times and that kind of messed around with our mojo, if you will.”
Both teams were racking up fouls early on. McDowell had 13 in the first half. Meadville had 11.
The Trojans were hit hardest when starting senior point guard Carson Lewis picked up his second whistle two minutes into the game and sat the rest of the first half.
Yet even without Lewis, McDowell led for the majority of the first half. Meadville had a 2-0 lead on Malik Anderson’s transition layup to start the scoring. And Zak Price — igniting what would be an outstanding night on offense — drained a floater from the baseline to make it 4-2. But McDowell took control shortly after that.
The Trojans led 18-13 after the first quarter. In the second, they stretched that lead as much as 25-17. However, Meadville outscored McDowell 10-2 over the next two and a half minutes to tie the game at 27 with 2:02 to go in the period.
Zak Price scored six of those points during that scoring stretch. He finished the half with 13 markers. Phil Mottillo added a layup and Trevor Clune knocked down a pair of free throws to knot the score.
Dalton Grafius knocked in a put-back shortly before the half ended to give McDowell a 29-27 lead at the break.
In the third quarter, Lewis got back in the game for McDowell and had an immediate impact, scoring seven unanswered for the Trojans with a long deuce, a 3-pointer, and then picking off a pass and scoring a layup on a fast break.
He would end up leading McDowell with 17 points.
“Not having (Lewis) is tough,” said O’Connor. “He makes things go for us. Carson is definitely special. ... Right away (in the third quarter) he gave us a nice lead.”
Grafius then added a 2-pointer to make it a nine-point run for the Trojans, who now led 38-27.
The Trojans rolled with that early momentum, outscoring the ’Dogs 25-13 in the third to take a 54-40 lead into the final period.
Yet, Meadville wasn’t done fighting. Zak Price opened the fourth with a floater down the lane and then sunk a long 3-pointer to make it 54-45.
Later, Clune got hot. He scored nine points and had five rebounds in the fourth, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key that cut McDowell’s lead to two possessions at 63-57 with 2:14 to play.
However, couldn’t find the basket as time wound down. On the other side, Lewis had a couple nice drives to the hoop and Grafius drained a jumper from the baseline to give the Trojans a little more breathing room.
Price scored a lay-in right before time expired to put the final points on the board.
That last bucket ended a marvelous offensive game for Price last night. He scored a game-best 27 markers.
“That Price kid, he’s crafty,” said O’Connor.
Clune followed with 16 points and had seven boards.
Following Lewis for McDowell was Michael Beck with 14 points. Grafius had a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double. And Matt Hansen had 11 points and six boards. Jake Wolf, the Trojans’ 6-foot-5 center contributed nine points and had nine rebounds.