MILLBURY - The Woodmore Wildcats, behind a stingy denial defense, pounced on the Lake Flyers early and refused to let them up in a 51-43 Suburban Lakes League road victory last night.
Woodmore (5-2, 3-1 in the SLL) handed Lake (5-2, 3-1) its first league loss of the season without one of its top players, Scott Bergman, who was injured.
The Wildcats made up for it with tenacious defense that allowed Woodmore to jump out to an early lead.
“They never made excuses but just went out and everybody stepped up,” said Woodmore coach Don Christie.
A.J. Schlea led Woodmore with 15 points, including a huge steal in the fourth quarter that dampened Lake's final rally. Dan Lieske pounded the middle for 14 points.
“A.J. is starting to build a lot of confidence that he took from the football season,” Christie said. “He's a scorer and he's got a scorer's mentality.”
Woodmore trailed just once the entire game and raced out to a 10-3 lead before Lake rallied around two 3-pointers by Scott Conley, who topped Lake with 18 points, and one by Wes Blank.
“We worked hard on defense all week, trying to get guys in the right position,” Christie said. “But Conley hit some long-range 3's on us. He's a streaky shooter and you knew we would give up some of those, but he's much more effective driving the ball and that's what we tried to take away.”
The Flyers could never make the big plays they needed to get over the hump as Woodmore clogged the middle and never gave Lake's post man, Tony Marchetto, breathing room.
“They did a good job keeping (Marchetto) out,” said Lake coach Jim Robinson, Jr. “They played very good help-side defense against us.”
With Lake trailing 21-16 at halftime, Marchetto scored on a layup to cut the advantage to three, before Woodmore went on a 10-2 run, sparked by 3-pointers by Schlea and Andrew Greenley, for a 31-20 lead.
The Flyers worked hard the rest of the third quarter and part of the fourth to get the Wildcats advantage under double digits.
Lake's final push came in the last period. Ryan Pannell, who fought off early foul trouble, scored seven of his nine points in the first 4:15 of the period. His 15-foot jumper with 3:47 left to play trimmed the lead to 40-37.
With the score 42-39, the Flyers got the ball back on a charge call and looked poised to trim the lead to one point or tie the contest, but Schlea stole a Conley pass that was tipped.
Conley was called for an intentional foul on Schlea on the other end. Schlea made one free throw and Greenley (11 points) made two free throws after he was fouled on the ensuing possession.
After a Lake miss, Greenley made a layup to put the game out of reach, 47-39 with 1:02 left in the game.
“That was the biggest play in the game,” Robinson said. “We had a guy wide open in the corner for a three, but somebody got a hand on the ball. I thought Scott made a good play (on the Schlea foul), but that's the way things go sometimes.”
Robinson said his team may still be too inexperienced to come from behind against a team like Woodmore but last night's game will help the Flyers play better from behind in the future.
“We're getting there,” Robinson said. “All we need is a little experience and time.”