Winning on the road in the Buckeye 8 is no easy task, any where you play.
Martins Ferry nearly found that out the hard way Tuesday night.
Trailing homestanding Union Local by 11 points early in the third quarter, veteran Purple Rider head coach Jeff Sabatino called a timeout and chastised his troops.
The strategy worked as Martins Ferry (5-3) went on an 11-2 run over the next three minutes en route to a 55-49 victory inside 'The Hangar' in Morristown.
However, Sabatino didn't think the timeout was what turned the game around. In difference, he cited the strong inside play of senior Tyler Strama and the crafty work of Cody Schau.
"I don't think me letting them have it had much to do with it," Sabatino said of the second-half rally. "What I remember is Strama, who was injured early on and just now coming back, just getting out there and letting it all hang out.
"He got his hands on some loose balls. He was diving around on the floor, and he came up with some big rebounds. I thought that it's what got us a little bit energized," Sabatino noted. "Then Cody got loose. They were playing a combination defense on him all night and he just kept plugging away, and so did we as a team."
However, Union Local (3-6) head coach Vaughn Butler saw the timeout as critical to his team's downfall.
"That's what killed us," Butler admitted. "I thought that we played hard and played well. That kind of broke the momentum that we had built up."
He also thought rebounding would be a key going into the game, and it turned out to be down the stretch.
"We rebounded pretty well for three quarters, but when we needed one late in the game we couldn't get one," he lamented.
Strama, who missed the early portion of the season with a broken ankle he suffered in the third week of football, ignited the 11-2 run with a conventional three-point play. Then, after Colton McKivitz converted a basket for the Jets, Schau rattled off four straight counters before Robert Vargo and Emilio Appolloni added baskets that sliced the deficit to 37-35.
Union Local would hold a 42-39 advantage after three quarters, but the tide had turned as far as 'Uncle Mo' was concerned.
Schau (7) and Strama (6) teamed for 13 of Martins Ferry's 16 fourth-quarter points, with Strama taking a nifty feed from Jake Barritt and laying the ball off the glass that pushed the Purple Riders ahead, 45-44, with 5:46 remaining. It was the visitors first lead since 2-0.
The Jets' Jacob Bailey tickled the twine from deep in the left corner to even the count at 47 with 2:20 left to play, but the Purple Riders tallied the next five to take a 52-47 lead they would not relinquish.
Schau, who netted four of the five points, gave the visitors the lead for good with a bucket in the lane. he would finish with a game-high 23 points. Strama added a dozen and Vargo 11. Vargo also pulled down a game-best 10 rebounds as the much-taller Purple Riders led 38-27 off the glass. Strama added nine boards and Schau eight. Barritt dished out half-a-dozen assists and charted a trio of steals.
Bailey paced UL with 21 points. McKivitz, who is also just rounding into basketball shape, chipped in 13 and nine rebounds off the bench.
"Colton really came on tonight," Butler allowed. "We need him in the middle."
Both teams took pretty good care of the orange sphere as Martins Ferry had one more turnover at 10-9. Neither team logged one in the final eight minutes.
MARTINS FERRY (55) - Barritt 0 1-2 1; Strama 5 2-4 12; Vargo 5 1-2 11; Appolloni 2 0-0 4; C. Schau 7 9-12 23; A. Burress 0 0-0 0; Sears 2 1-2 6; Totals: 20-48 14-22. UNION LOCAL (49) - McDiffitt 2 0-0 4; Dunfee 0 0-0 0; Jones 3 0-0 7; Porter 2 0-0 4; Bailey 6 7-8 21; McKivitz 6 1-5 13; C. Tipton 0 0-0 0; Sill 0 0-0 0; Totals: 19-43 8-13.
Three-Point Goals: Martins Ferry 1 (Sears); Union Local 3 (Jones, Bailey 2)
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