CORTLAND - The growing pains of inexperience hurt a little more in December, as Lakeview Bulldogs coach Craig Mild discovered Tuesday night.
The Bulldogs stayed close with the Struthers Wildcats from start to finish and had a one-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but they pulled up short at the end in losing, 44-41, in a non-conference boys' basketball game.
"A couple foul shots here and there and a couple loose balls and we're right where we want to be," Mild said. "We talked all night and I said, 'We're right where we need to be. We just need to execute at the end of the game.' We didn't execute. We have some young guys here that didn't learn from that. That's what we're talking about tomorrow. Come in and learn from our mistakes and hopefully we'll do better the next time we have to close out a game."
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lakeview’s Jake Pishotti (20) drives to the basket as Struthers’ Tommy Kimbrough defends during the third quarter of thier game Tuesday night.
The loss dropped the Bulldogs' record to 1-1. The Wildcats are 2-0.
There were some positive signs that Mild can build off in the future. The Bulldogs had four more field goals (18-14) and were almost even in rebounds (the Wildcats had a 31-30 advantage).
On the negative side was a 10-4 edge for the Wildcats at the foul line and a 6-1 advantage from beyond the 3-point line.
Tommy Kimbrough made three of the 3-pointers for the Wildcats all in the second period. When the Bulldogs inched ahead, 23-22, in the third period, Ray'Quan Phifer gave Struthers a 25-23 lead with a 3-point shot. Drew Bell made a fielder for the Bulldogs, but a two-pointer by Vinny Fandozzi and a three-point shot by Joe Wilaj extended the Wildcats' lead to 30-25.
"They had three of them in a row by the same guy, uncontested," Mild said.
Trailing 33-32 through three quarters, Lakeview grabbed a 34-33 lead on a jumper by Brandon Bensing, who scored a team-high 13 points. Temeko Holness then gave Struthers the lead for good with a fielder.
Later in the quarter, the Bulldogs, trailing 39-38, had two opportunities on one possession to regain the lead but weren't able to convert on two jumpers. Wilaj made one of two free throws and David Stewart was successful on two free throws to push the Wildcats' advantage to a comfortable 44-38.
"We got a couple defensive stops when we needed them," Wildcats coach Joe Savko said. "We made some free throws at the end. Like I told them, Lakeview is going to be a very physical, solid team, and that's the way the game went.
"We said the most important thing is we still have a zero in the right-hand (loss) column. That's kind of our goal. It was sloppy on both ends but a good basketball game."
Kimbrough finished with 14 points to lead all scorers. Justin Journey had 11, and Jake Pishotti scored 10 for the Bulldogs.
Lakeview started two seniors, two juniors and one sophomore. One junior and one sophomore came off the bench.
"They're not used to being in a game like that and closing out that ending," Mild said. "That's something else we need to build on and learn from. They're listening to everything we say and learning every day. It's nice to see them in a game situation. We have to get better."
The Bulldogs return to action Friday at home against Beaver Local.