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Wildcats take FC outright with win over Big Red

By JAKE FURR Reflector Sports Editor jakefurr@norwalkreflector.com • Updated Feb 24, 2017 at 10:48 PM

NEW LONDON — The 2016-17 Firelands Conference championship found its home on Friday night.

The New London Wildcats hosted the Plymouth Big Red needing a win to take home the title outright after New London clinched a share last weekend in a wild win over Mapleton “Cardiac Cats” style. On Friday, it was a much smoother road to a win and the Wildcats cleared off a space in the trophy case for the FC title.

But the Big Red gave the Wildcats a fight for three quarters and even owning a 30-28 halftime lead. But the Wildcats made an adjustment on defense and held Plymouth to just 17-second half points after giving up 18 in the first quarter alone. New London used a 16-7 advantage in the third and 18-10 advantage in the fourth to treat the home crowd to a title-clinching win.

FC Champs

With the win, New London improved to 17-5 and 12-2 in the Firelands Conference. Heading into the evening, a New London loss would have really shaken things up and opened the door for Western Reserve and St. Paul. But the Wildcats took care of business and left no doubt. It was also senior night and the New London faithful saw Ryan Lane, Billy Woodmancy, Jake Gerlak, Jacob Molnar and Aidan Albaugh play their final game on their home court.

“It is my first time ever cutting down the nets,” New London senior Ryan Lane said. “It has just been a heck of a time this season. I just wanted to come out and have fun with these guys for the final time on our home court.”

Lane, the Division III District 6 Player of the Year, scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds in the win. Woodmancy scored seven points including a 3-pointer and grabbed five boards.

“It is a great feeling,” Woodmancy said. “For the simple fact that we have just come such a long way throughout this season is incredible. People doubted us and didn’t think we would finish first in the conference. Winning tonight and becoming outright champs, it feels very good and proves something about our team that we can fight through anything.”

The FC title is New London coach Tom Howell’s second of his career and admits this one was tougher than the last.

“It is great and it is incredibly hard to win our conference,” Howell said. “People do not understand how hard it is to win the Firelands Conference championship. Our conference is very tough. Everyone’s goal coming into every year is to win this and we are very fortunate. We won a lot of close games. Our league was tough and I am just glad we pulled it out.”

Not so Cardiac

Dubbed the Cardiac Cats, New London was able to stay away from the dramatics and take home a 15-point win.

“It feels like we haven’t done that since the first couple games of the year,” Lane said. “This was a lot more fun than sweating it out until the end.”

“It was a relief because playing in the last few games especially against Mapleton, it was a bit of a heart-racer,” Woodmancy said. “It was just nice and a very good feeling to finally come away with the win and the title.”

 

Howell was juts happy to send his seniors out with a win.

“They are all awesome,” Howell said. “They are not very emotional. They come to practice every day, joke around a lot, but they work hard, play hard and try to do everything I ask of them and, as a coach, that is all I can ask for.”

Simple adjustment

With the Wildcats on the ropes, Howell made one adjustment that changed the entire game after halftime.

“We made one little adjustment,” Howell said. “We changed a defensive assignment and it seemed to slow them down a little bit. They hurt us in the first half getting to the paint and finding their shooters. We made that adjustment and it slowed them down and it worked.”

Plymouth coach Derrick Shelenberger noticed the adjustment and the Big Red couldn’t counter, but he was still happy with his team’s performance.

“They went one a run and made their free throws,” Shelenberger said. “I thought my kids played extremely hard and up until the last couple minutes, we were right there with them. A couple of things go our way and we walk out of here a spoiler.”

Leaders

To go along with Lane’s double-double and Woodmancy’s shooting, Karson Howell chipped in with 14 points while Gerlak added eight.

For the Big Red, Kade Collins provided a spark off of the bench scoring 13 points including three 3-pointers. Senior Austin Nester chipped in with nine and sophomore Jacob Adams scored seven points, grabbed six boards and added four assists.

Up Next

The Wildcats are back in action at 6:15 p.m. on Friday at Shelby High School playing the winner of Clear Fork and Galion. The Big Red kick off their tournament trail at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Sandusky High School against Buckeye Central.

STAT BOOK

Plymouth 18-12-7-10 — 47

New London 17-11-16-18 — 62

Plymouth: 15-40 FG, 9-15 FT, 6-23 3pt. (Collins 3, Chaffins 2, Adams 1) 30 rebounds (Adams 6), 15 turnovers, 10 Assists (Adams 4), Steals 5 (Reed 3). Scoring: Kade Collins 4-2-13, Austin Nester 2-5-9, Jacob Adams 3-0-7, Jared Reed 2-2-6, Mitchell Chaffins 2-0-6, Dylan Osborne 2-0-4. 

New London: 21-53 FG, 15-26 FT, 5-24 3pt. (Howell 2, Woodmancy 1, Gerlak 1, Lane 1) 38 rebounds (Lane 14), 9 turnovers, 11 Assists, Steals 8 (Gerlak 3). Scoring: Ryan Lane 8-6-23, Karson Howell 3-6-14, Jake Gerlak 3-1-8, Billy Woodmancy 3-0-7, Justin Marshall 2-2-6, Jacob Molnar 1-0-2, Dan Matthews 1-0-2.

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