By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
With both the Mathews Mustangs and Grand Valley Mustangs coming off tough losses, it only figured the teams would battle on even terms in their Northeastern Athletic Conference matchup Tuesday night in Orwell.
With neither team gaining more than a four-point edge the entire game — 15 ties and 23 lead changes — it was only fair that it all came down to a debated foul call with two seconds left and a tie score. Kyle Orgovan was fouled under the basket, and the GV senior guard calmly stepped to the line and hit the first of a one and one free-throw opportunity to give his team a thrilling 57-56 NAC win over Mathews.
“It’s been the tale of our season,” GV coach Luke Strohm said. “When we stay focused and concentrate on the task at hand in games, we are very capable of winning. We did not do that in our last game at Southington, and we got thumped.
“Tonight, I challenged the kids before the game to be the best they can be, and this game was a complete turnaround.”
Mathews twice held four point leads in the first half, but they could not shake GV for more than a minute or two.
The key factor in Grand Valley’s favor was a solid night shooting, built around patient passing and attacking. Good rebounding late in the game also kept Mathews from getting multiple shots off.
GV put a trio of players into double digits in scoring. Jake Vormelker 17 points, Gabe Kovats supplied 13 in a starting role for Strohm, and Orgovan tallied 11. Josh Kovats added seven, and Stanley Sirrine had six.
A key point was that both of the latter players did all their scoring in the second half to offset a smothering effort by Mathews (3-6, 2-3 in NAC) on Vormelker in the second half. He scored 11 in the first half, but saw at least two and sometimes three black jerseys more than he saw the ball in the second half.
Just as they had in a loss last week at PV, Mathews had shooting woes and turnovers at inopportune times that kept them from pulling away.
Aaron Suchaner led the way for coach Jason Lee with 15 points. Cobie Pratt and Andy Morgan, the latter battling foul trouble much of the night, each scored nine. It was Morgan’s absence in the paint that allowed GV to get to the hoop for many high percentage shots.
“My kids played very hard tonight,” Lee said. “We were much sharper and more consistent than we were at PV the other night (a 66-46 loss to the Lakers).”
Rebounding was a key in the fourth period for GV (2-6, 2-3 in NAC).
“We did a poor job of rebounding, especially in the first half,” Strohm said. “It almost cost us, but we got a few key misses late in the game, got a couple important steals, showed a lot of patience handling the ball, and Kyle came through with that free throw.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.