BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green didn't back down from Mansfield Senior - the No. 2-ranked team in the state - when the two met last night at Bowling Green State University.
The Bobcats provided Mansfield with plenty to think about - in particular, a furious push midway through the game that erased an early 17-point deficit.
However, Bowling Green's dream of an upset and a district title came up a little short as Mansfield held on for a 73-68 victory at Anderson Arena.
Falling behind early to one of the highest-ranked teams in the state ultimately came back to haunt the unranked Bobcats (17-7).
"They were the quickest team we've played this year," Bowling Green coach Von Graffin said, of the Tygers (22-1). "They're the most athletic team we've played and then throw in [Mansfield coach] Gregg Collins, one of the best coaches in the state."
Ryan Hoehner pumped in a game-high 27 points to lead the Bobcats. His presence around the basket allowed Bowling Green to go on a 24-7 run midway through the second and third quarters. Hoehner capped the run with a 10-footer that tied the score at 47 with 2:47 to play in the third period.
But the Bobcats never found a way to take the lead down the stretch.
"Without ever having a lead we were scrambling," Graffin said. "The guys we played played a lot of minutes."
Brandon Radabaugh chipped in 10 points while Blaise Markey and Moe Al-Jiboury provided nine apiece for the Bobcats, who actually owned a 3-2 lead early.
"I'm very proud of our season but I'm not content," Al-Jiboury said. "We came here to win it. I'm very proud but I'm disappointed."
Mansfield's Rashad Reed scored 16 of his team-high 25 points in the first half. Javario Byrd scored 17 points while Dwaine Lentes came through with 11 to contribute to the Tygers' cause.
Yet, Mansfield's coach credited Bowling Green for putting together a serious comeback attempt:
"They did a great job versus our [defensive] pressure and on the offensive glass."
Collins added: "[Hoehner] is a very good athlete and a very good shooter. He's a different type of player because he can play away from the basket."
Ultimately, the Tygers did enough damage in the opening quarter to take control of the momentum.
Initially, the Bobcats struggled with the Tygers full-court pressure. They committed nine of their 20 turnovers in the first quarter, which led to Mansfield taking a 27-15 lead.
Reed provided an early spark for the Tygers with some deft long-range shooting. He made 4 of 6 3-point attempts during the first half. At one stretch, Reed swished three straight 3-pointers to ignite an 11-2 run midway through the period. The Tygers owned a comfortable 25-8 lead when Tre'Von Lucas scored on a put-back with 1:40 left in the quarter.
But the Bobcats would eventually make it more uncomfortable as the game progressed.
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