CORTLAND — During Mathews’ previously undefeated start to the season, one thing remained a constant — the defense’s ability to limit scoring.
The Mustangs had given up just 46.6 points per game during their 7-0 start. That changed Thursday night as Lakeview hit 11 three-pointers enroute to a decisive 79-57 win to deal Mathews its first loss of the year.
“I trust our guys to take open shots and make open shots,” said Lakeview head coach Mark Novotny. “I prefer layups, and if you ask the guys, they’ll tell you I’m preaching layup, layup, layup, but they have the green light. They put in the work and it shows, so hats off to them for stepping up and making shots.”
Four Lakeview players scored in double-figures, with Nate Fox leading the way with 21 points. Aidan Popovich scored 15 for the Bulldogs, while Tyler Capan finished with 14. Fox and Popovich combined to hit six of Lakeview’s 11 threes.
After Lakeview (2-6) had its originally scheduled game canceled due to COVID protocols, Division IV Mathews (7-1) stepped up to the challenge against the Division II Bulldogs.
“We’re stepping up a weight class with playing Lakeview,” said Mathews head coach Michael Weymer. “But we’re disappointed. We expected to come in here and compete and come away with the win. Credit to them, they hit a lot of shots (Thursday). They haven’t hit a lot of shots so far this year, but you can tell they know what they’re doing. They have good form.”
Both teams executed at a high level offensively — Mathews attacked the paint and drew fouls, while the Bulldogs used ball movement to break down each of their respective zone defenses.
Lakeview had success scoring in transition, especially in the first half, as it passed through Mathews’ extended three-quarters court 2-3 zone.
“We’ve seen a lot of pressure from teams through these seven or eight games,” Novotny said. “So I think we finally got comfortable with it. Seeing that pressure every game, I think it finally clicked for our guys. We hadn’t been doing that in the previous games, so it was nice to see.”
After building a five-point lead at halftime, Lakeview blew the doors open to start the second half — running out on an 11-2 run to open the third quarter. The Bulldogs hit five of their threes in the third quarter.
Despite trailing by double digits for most of the second half, the Mustangs cut Lakeview’s lead down to eight with 4:11 left — the first time the lead was single digits since early in the third.
However, almost immediately, back-to-back threes from Fox and Blaine Barr pushed the lead back to double digits and proved to be the dagger for Mathews.
“The goal was to try and wear them down,” Weymer said. “We were able to cut that lead down, so honestly I believed right until the end that we had a shot there. But then they had a couple more quick shots and kept us at bay, so hats off to them.”
Vinny Sharp carried the Mustangs in the second half, scoring 13 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter, as Mathews tried to crawl back into the game. Ethan Petak had 16, while Vincent Greenwood had 11 for the Mustangs.
Novotny said he hopes Thursday’s win provides a springboard for the team going forward after the lackluster start.
“That’s a great basketball team — Coach Weymer does a great job. Those kids play hard, they score, they’re tough and they rebound,” Novotny said. “We have two league games next week so I’m hoping this will spring us into those.”