by Colin Harris | Reporter
Streetsboro -- The Mogadore Wildcats looked like they could not miss an outside shot during their Portage Trail Conference County Division boys basketball clash with the host Streetsboro Rockets Dec. 13.
There was one problem: The Wildcats seemingly could not hit anything from inside 20 feet or so.
Mogadore knocked down 10 three-pointers but shot just 29 percent (5 of 17) from the foul line as the Rockets escaped with a 46-43 home victory.
"You never really know how far out you have to guard Mogadore because they can shoot it from outside," Streetsboro head coach Nick Marcini said. "Mogadore's a tough, physical team and we knew that they were going to hit their shots from the outside."
That's not to say the Rockets were any better from the line, shooting 27 percent (6 of 22) from the line, but Streetsboro (4-0, 3-0) got the plays it needed down the stretch to earn an important early-season victory.
Trailing Mogadore (2-2, 1-1) 24-17 at the half, the Rockets got a spark from senior forward Paul Jenkins in the final two quarters.
Entering the third quarter with just four points, Jenkins came alive in the second half, scoring 13 points to finish the evening with a team-high 17 points.
Jenkins also was a beast on the glass, finishing with 11 rebounds to record his first double-double of the season.
Marcini said that he challenged his senior big man at the half to step up his game.
"We played about as poorly as a team could play during the first half," Marcini said. "So I challenged Paul to step it up. He's a player who likes the big stage and this was a big game.
"We're going to go as far as Paul can take us this season because he has the potential to dominate a game."
While Jenkins was putting up points and moving bodies in the paint, the Wildcats were struggling to hit any shots around the basket.
After shooting a comparatively decent 4 for 9 from the line during the first half, Mogadore went 1 for 8 in the second half. The Wildcats were not much more effective around the basket, finishing with just three two-point field goals in the second half and four total on the evening.
Mogadore head coach Russ Schwartz said that his team's inability to convert on opportunities near the basket has begun to seem like a trend during the early part of the season.
"If you look back at our loss to Springfield [earlier in the season] and [the Dec. 13] loss, they both go back to our inability to hit foul shots," he said. "I know that the effort is there for us and I thought we played wonderful defense, but we are not hitting our foul shots and it's cost us [two losses]."
As the Wildcats struggled to covert easy opportunities, Streetsboro saw fit to claw back into the game, closing Mogadore's lead in the third and taking control for good with 6 minutes, 25 seconds remaining in regulation on a Jenkins' bucket.
With 4.7 remaining on the clock, the Rockets' Jerry Judd hit the second of two foul shots to extend his team's lead to 46-43. Mogadore inbounded the ball and attempted to push it up court for a game-tying three-pointer, but the ball bounced off of a Wildcats' player and the Rockets escaped with the victory.
Reggie Dublin joined Jenkins in double figures for Streetsboro, finishing with 11 points.
Mogadore was led by Casey Ruppell, who scored 15 points on the strength of five three-pointers.
The Rockets are scheduled to host County Division foe Woodridge Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. They are set to entertain Aurora Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m.