Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2012, 11:00 pm

Golden Eagles get first basketball win over season

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By Aaron Dail Correspondent

WOODHULL -- It was a wild nightcap at the ROWVA/Ridgewood Classic on Tuesday night as the Mercer County Golden Eagles held off the Ridgewood Spartans for a 73-68 win, their first of the season.

"We didn't play our defense very well," said Mercer County coach Brian Hutton, who watched star forward Tanner Matlick take the game over in the fourth quarter to secure the victory. "He's a rock. He's a great athlete and played well tonight. It was nice to see him out there."

After trailing by double digits for much of the game, Ridgewood (4-5) started gaining ground behind hot shooting from sophomore Ridge Greenman (17 points) and James Brooks (18 points), who both canned 3-balls in the fourth to cut the lead.

Brooks hit three of four free throws after a technical on Hutton to cut Mercer County's lead to 60-59 with 4:41 to play, that's when Matlick sprung into action.

After hitting one of two freebies, Matlick (game-high 27 points, 16 rebounds) hit three straight field goals to give the Eagles some breathing room.

Ridgewood battled back to cut the lead to 70-68 with 44 seconds to go but the Spartans couldn't convert a 3-pointer and Matlick sealed the victory with a pair of free throws with :13 to play.

"It was a total team effort," said a modest Matlick, who did confess to wanting to be the best when it counted the most. "Big time players come up big when they need to and that's what I was trying to do."

Prophetstown 54, ROWVA 46:Three weeks ago, Prophetstown lost to ROWVA after being tied with three minutes to go. This time, the Prophets stepped it up when they needed it the most.

Leading 44-42 with 2:30 to play, Prophets senior Carter Ames (13 points) nailed a huge 3-pointer and on the next possession got three points the old fashioned way with a drive and one to give Prophetstown (6-3) all the lead they would need.

"We're learning to win close games," said Prophetstown coach Cordell Juhola, who wasn't surprised by Ames' fourth-quarter exploits. "Carter doesn't get a lot of credit but he makes things easier for everybody."

"I just wanted to win and get the ball in crunch time," said Ames, who scored eight points in the game's last two and a half minutes. "Everyone is on the same wavelength and we are working together as a team."

Prophetstown started the game on a roll, taking a 19-11 first quarter lead behind strong play in the paint from forward Zach Inskeep (game-high 18 points, seven rebounds), who shot 9-of-11 from the field and picked up four buckets on putbacks from offensive rebounds, and even better play on the perimeter from point guard Devin Johnson.

Johnson had an eye-popping 10 steals to go with 14 points and four assists and was a constant annoyance for ROWVA's guards. Prophetstown's defense enabled it to hold on after ROWVA (4-6) cut the Prophets' lead down to a bucket by halftime.

"I take pride in my defense," said Johnson, "and I want to get as many assists as I can to get my teammates involved."

Williamsfield 55, United 43:United (1-6) had a 27-26 halftime lead and trailed by just four points heading into the final frame but Williamsfield (6-3) pulled away in the fourth quarter to hand the Red Storm another loss. Junior Lance Sperry led United with 12 points.

"They beat us 45-22 a couple of weeks ago and tonight we got better," said United coach Jim Noonan. "We are inexperienced and have to learn how to win. Once we do, the sky is the limit."