Metea Valley scrapes past East Aurora

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Metea Valley came out strong Thursday in the third quarter, erased a six-point halftime deficit and then held on for a 66-63 win over visiting East Aurora.

“Coach (Bob Vozza) was preaching defense in the locker room,” said 6-5 junior center Mark Konkle, who led the Mustangs with 22 points and seven rebounds.

The win lifts Metea Valley to 13-8 overall and 5-4 in the Upstate Eight Valley, while East Aurora falls to 4-15 and 1-6.

Senior guard Marquell Oliiver added 18 points and sophomore Matt Helwig came off the bench for 12 for Metea, which avenged an earlier 66-60 loss at East Aurora.

“It’s been an improvement for (Konkle) in terms of executing when he gets the ball down low,” Vozza said. “Today I thought he played at a high level in terms of hands and converting in traffic.”

Two of Konkle’s nine field goals came on putbacks, and the other seven he was the beneficiary of nice passes from teammates as he remained active throughout and gave them a nice target cutting to the basket.

Marquell Oliver and Nick Dodson had three assists each and Bryson Oliver added two as the Mustangs shared the ball well.

The Oliver brothers sparked a 10-2 run to open the third quarter with back-to-back steals and the home team finished the key quarter with a 21-12 advantage.

“We did not respond in the third quarter,” East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries said. “Metea came out and won the third quarter and that was the turning point in the game.”

The Tomcats had six turnovers in each of the middle quarters.

“I thought our defensive presence picked up a little in the third,” Vozza said. “I didn’t think we were pushing much, in terms of giving resistance to what they were doing in the first half. Whether that was work ethic or whether that was our will in the defensive zone.

“I thought it chanced at halftime. We came out with a little more pressure in that end.”

Adrian Smith led the Tomcats with 17 points and Delvion Pugh almost willed his team to victory in the fourth, draining a pair of long-distance 3-pointers and finishing with 10 of his 12 points in the quarter.

Two straight baskets by Smith pulled East within 62-61 with 1:44 remaining but Justin Kuehn tied up, then stole the ball from Tomcat center Jonathan Villezcas on one of many calls Jeffries had trouble believing.

“This is not the NBA, so I can’t get fined, but that was the worst officiated game we’ve had all year,” said Jeffries. “All the favorable calls went to the home team.”

Kuehn made both free throws on the one-and-bonus to extend the lead to 64-61 and Marquell Oliver added two more after Villezcas (12 points) scored on a nice post move to pull East within 64-63.

Fred Reynolds added 10 points for East Aurora.

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