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Neuqua Valley used a fourth-quarter run to outdistance itself from District 204 rival Metea Valley on Thursday night.
The Mustangs had just cut the Wildcats' lead down to 2 with three minutes to go before Neuqua Valley went on an 11-1 run over the next two minutes, eventually leading to a 59-49 victory in Upstate Eight Valley play.
"It was just players making plays," Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said of the fourth-quarter run. "It started with Josh (Piotrowski) taking a big charge and then we made a nice steal and hit some foul shots. Metea would make a run at us and we'd make a big play."
The Wildcats used a balanced scoring attack to lead from start to finish as Elijah Robertson led with 13 points, followed by Piotrowski with 12, Connor Raridon's 11, Zach Incaudo's 10 and Demond George with 10.
"We have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things," Robertson said. "We have post players, excellent shooters and great point guards. It helps to have a balanced attack all over the court."
Metea Valley struggled in the first half, connecting on only six field goals, which led to a 29-17 halftime deficit.
However, the start of the third quarter was a different story as the Mustangs opened with an 11-2 run that began with two quick 3-pointers by Marquell Oliver, who finished with a game-high 15 points.
"I was happy with the way we played in the third quarter," Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza said. "I was not happy with the way we retreated and took a step back in the first half. I don't know if it was big games or nerves, but we got on the guys at halftime and they responded in the third quarter where our aggressiveness and confidence was much better."
Metea Valley continued the momentum in the fourth quarter as Mark Konkle scored the Mustangs' first three baskets, two of them off assists from Oliver.
Nick Dodson got Metea Valley within 2 for the first time since the start of the game, connecting on a jumper just left of the free-throw line to trim the deficit to 48-46 with three minutes left.
From there the momentum shifted to the Wildcats as Thomas Putz started the run with a fastbreak layup, followed by a steal and another fastbreak layup by Piotrowski, all in a 45-second span.
"Coach Sutton told us to keep our composure," Robertson said. "Basketball is a game of runs, but we kept our composure, controlled the glass and played our type of game."
By the time Oliver went to the free-throw line with 40 seconds left, Neuqua Valley had built a 12-point lead at 59-47.