The absence of starting point guard Zach Specht due to illness and an early scoring spurt by host Akron-Westfield leading to a 34-15 halftime lead was a double dose of grief for Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn here Friday night in a 59-42 War Eagle Conference loss to the Westerners.
The Eagles rebounded on Saturday night in Marcus with a thriling 39-37 non-conference victory over Ruthven-Ayrshire on a buzzer-beating put-back by John Hoelfing.
Hoelfing led MMC with 10 points and 10 rebounds for a nifty double-double performance, and Neal Bunt added eight points. Dylan Spieler and Hoefling led MMC in rebounds with four each. Bunt led in steals with three.
The Eagles made 19-45 field goals for 42 percent, and cashed in 6-15 free throws.
"We really struggled putting the ball in the basket in the first half," said MMC coach Pat Bird. "Akron-Westfield's man-to-man defense caused us problems and this was compounded by the fact our point guard was out due to illness.
Specht was back for the R-A game and led the Eagles with 11 points, followed by Hoefling, Tyler Prunty, and Bunt with seven points apiece. Hoefling also led in rebounds with nine.
Trevin Enderson paced R-A with 16 points, and Colton Bakken chipped in 11.
MMC jumped to a 29-18 halftime lead but saw R-A claw back into it to trail 34=30 after three periods, and then hung on for dear life at the end, with Hoefling rebounding and putting back a missed Specht jumper as the buzzer sounded.
MMC sank 13-38 shots for a cold 28 percent, and was 10-25 from the foul line. R-A made 13-38 field goals for 34 percent, and cashed in 8-12 free throws.
"We didn't shoot well and this was very evident at the free throw line where we converted just 10-25," noted coach Bird. "Our struggles at the line allowed R-A to get back into it. The thing that saved us was good defense and solid rebounding by our big guys.
"John Hoefling, Tyler Prunty, Dylan Spieler, and Andrew Hoefling all worked hard to keep Bakken (6-4, 300 pounds) off the boards. It is fitting that a rebound and put-back is what won the game for us."
The MMC teams play at Remsen-Union Friday night.