The Mendota boys basketball team took control of its pool on Tuesday at the Colmone Classic.
After the Trojans beat Stark County on Monday’s opening night, MHS took a giant leap toward winning the White Pool as it earned a 57-49 victory over St. Bede.
The victory improves the Trojans to 2-0 in the pool and a win over Bureau Valley at 6:30 tonight would give Mendota the White Pool title and advance it to Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. Colmone Classic title game.
“It was a huge win for us,” MHS coach Jan Thompson said. “… The tough games and the close ones are the games that define what a good team is, and I think tonight defined what a good team is. We buckled down, took care of the ball and played 32 minutes of basketball and played defense, which is huge.”
A Mendota loss on Wednesday to BV, however, would create the possibility of a three-way tie atop the White Pool.
In the Red Pool, Fieldcrest opened its title defense with a 68-42 blowout win over Sherrard.
Mendota 57, St. Bede 49
The Trojans played from ahead for most of the game as they trailed for only less than two minutes.
However, the Bruins stayed within striking distance and had a chance in the fourth quarter.
After MHS (7-2) took a nine-point lead midway through the third quarter and led by 46-39 with 4:41 left in the game, St. Bede pulled to 46-42 with 4:28 to go after a three-point play from senior Joe Pyszka.
Three points by MHS sophomore James Carroll pushed the lead back to 49-42, but two free throws from SBA senior Damin Smith and a 3-pointer from senior Brad Groleau cut the deficit to 49-47 with 2:46 left in the game.
However, the Trojans were up to the challenge.
Over the final 2:46, Mendota went 6-for-8 from the foul line to seal the win.
Senior Trae Blumhorst went 1-for-2 from the line, senior Evan Carroll 3-for-4 and junior Mark Prescott 2-for-2.
“One of our mottos at the beginning of the year was free throws win championships,” Thompson said. “Last year in the regional championship against Plano , we were 11-for-27 from the free throw line, and that was the difference. So (improving free throws) was something we and our four senior captains said we were going to do differently this year.”
Blumhorst had 12 points and 12 rebounds for MHS, while Jon Gehm hit four 3-point shots and scored a team-high 14 points. Austin O’Sadnick added 12 points and six rebounds.
Pyszka had 19 points and 12 rebounds for SBA (5-3), which was 1-for-14 from beyond the 3-point line.
“We missed a lot of easy shots early,” said SBA coach Mike Kilmartin, a longtime coach and AD at MHS. “We are just having trouble shooting. It’s not that we’re not getting decent shots. We are just having trouble shooting.”
Fieldcrest 68, Sherrard 42
The Knights started the game on a 6-0 run and led by as much as 26 points in the fourth quarter in their tournament opener.
Senior Nick Panzica hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter for the three-time defending champions, while 2011 Colmone Classic MVP Brady Sanders had 19 points, three rebounds and three blocked shots despite battling the flu.
“We played a little better offensively,” Fieldcrest coach Matt Winkler said. “I thought Nick Panzica came in and was a great lift off the bench with his shooting and defense.”
Fieldcrest, which was ranked No. 10 in the Class 2A Associated Press preseason poll, also received 16 points and five rebounds from freshman Drew Barth, while Panzica finished with 15 points.
“It was the first time in awhile that we got a few layups,” Winkler said. “We were in the passing lanes a little better. Our heads were moving a little better on a swivel. It’s still not where I’d like, but it’s learning process with these guys. I’ve got to remind myself sometimes that we’re a little young.”
With his 19 points on Tuesday, Sanders is now 25 points away from scoring 1,000 career points in his high school career.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.