Prep basketball: Tigers top Cougars 59-43

NEW MATAMORAS – Marietta big men Braden Riley and Jonathan Wood combined for 36 points and the visiting Tigers dominated the boards en route to a 59-43 victory over the Frontier Cougars Tuesday night at Hank Morus Gymansium.

Riley scored nine of his game high 20 points in the opening quarter and the Tigers out rebounded the undersized Cougars by a healthy 36-17 margin to claim their second consecutive victory to open the season.

“I was pleased with our concentrated effort to get the ball where we want it, which is in the hands of our big guys,” said first-year Marietta head coach Mark Duckworth, speaking of his twin towers, Riley (6-foot-5) and Jonathan Wood (6-6). “We know that is where our bread and butter is and we will continue to do things to maximize our potential inside.”

With the tallest starter in the Cougar lineup listed at an even 6-foot, the orange and black wasted little time taking advantage of their size as Riley scored seven points in the first four minutes of the game to help send the Tigers out to an early 12-2 lead.

Frontier’s Nick Camino drained a three-pointer to cut the lead to seven.

Riley grabbed a rebound and put it back in to increase the MHS lead to nine but Frontier closed out the opening quarter with a Drew Schneider jumper to trim the lead to 14-7.

Frontier got a huge boost off of its bench to open the second quarter as junior Jake Bradford drilled a pair of three’s to keep the Cougars within striking distance of the Tigers.

“(Jake) Bradford is a shooter and he came in and did a great job for us there in the second quarter,” said Cougar head coach Roger Kirkpatrick. “I think he may have gotten a little tired in the second half but he gave us a huge lift.”

Bradford’s third field goal of the game, a fade away jumper, cut the MHS lead to seven at 23-16 late in the first half, but the Tigers answered with a trey from Dillon Sturm and a rebound and put back by Zach LaBarre to take a 28-17 lead into halftime.

“Dillon Sturm played hard on both ends of the court again for us tonight and he has really elevated his game this season,” said Duckworth of Sturm who scored seven points while coming up with three steals. “Zach (LaBarre) came in off the bench and I was really pleased with his effort tonight as well.”

The Cougars came out firing in the second half as quick scores by Schneider and Bradford cut the Tiger lead to just two at 28-22.

Unfortunately for Kirkpatrick and his Cougars, that would be as close as they would get to the Tigers as Riley took over to turn a two possession game into a 17-point Tiger lead in a matter of about three minutes.

Riley got things started with a power move inside that resulted in an old fashioned three-point play and after Tiger sophomore John Henry nailed a three-ball, Riley scored back-to-back goals on rebounds, and just like that the Tigers held a 39-22 advantage.

Frontier chipped away at the lead early in the final period sparked by Camino as the Cougar sophomore opened the quarter with a basket after he forced a Tiger turnover and followed that up with a three-pointer to cut the lead to 10 at 44-34. Marietta struggled at the charity stripe in the game as it made just 13-of-26 free throw attempts but Frontier was unable to capitalize and the Tigers pulled away down the stretch to capture their first road win of the season.

Riley finished with a double-double as the MHS senior pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds to go along with his 20 points, while Wood added 16 points and seven boards.

Camino led three Cougars in double figures with 12 points, while Schneider and Bradford added 11 and 10 points respectively.

Duckworth, though, pleased with the victory, felt his Tigers still have plenty of room for improvement as they resume conference play Friday night when they travel to Dover.

“It’s a good starting point for us but I told our guys there are a lot of things to learn yet,” said Duckworth. “We’re certainly happy with our 2-0 start but we have a lot of tough games coming up and we’ll just need to continue to work.”

The Cougars slipped to 0-3 to open the season but Kirkpatrick sees no reason why his team can’t turn things around sooner than later.

“Our effort was there tonight we just needed to make some better decisions,” said Kirkpatrick, who is beginning his third decade as Cougar head coach. “We just weren’t able to hit the key shot or come up with the key loose ball, but overall we were competitive. We are going to get better and we are going to work hard and the wins will start coming.”

The Cougars will try once again for their first win Friday when they travel to Beallsville.