WEEDSPORT — With the amount of bodies hitting the floor and physical contact, the latest meeting between the Weedsport and Cato-Meridian boys basketball teams could've been mistaken for football.
The Warriors, who trailed at halftime, took advantage of home court to defeat the Blue Devils 60-47 Tuesday at Weedsport High School. Cato-Meridian was ahead by one at halftime, but Weedsport outscored the Blue Devils by 12 points in the second half to pull out the win.
The two teams combined for 60 free-throw attempts, with the Warriors attempting 44. They made only 22 of those tries, but 11 were in the fourth quarter trying to protect the lead.
"We played good defense in the first half, holding them to 23," Weedsport coach Jon Sgarlata said. "Nothing really changed (in the second half). I thought we made our free throws in the fourth quarter. ...We were woeful there for most of the game. We really played great defense. Even when they scored, they really had to work for it."
Matt Powers was Weedsport's leading scorer with 14 points, while Josh O'Connor and Joel Blumer each scored 11 points.
Marcus Ramacus had 14 for Cato-Meridian, with Trevor Lunkenheimer adding 11 and Isiah Swann scoring eight (all in the fourth quarter).
It's not often that a visiting team comes into Weedsport's gym and hangs tough for the entirety of four quarters, but Cato-Meridian gave the Warriors everything they could handle through 16 minutes. The Blue Devils' Connor Harrington hit a 3 in the final seconds of the opening quarter to tie the score 11-11 after eight minutes. Ramacus then scored six in the second quarter to give Cato-Meridian a 23-22 lead at halftime.
Ball control became an issue for the Blue Devils in the second half. Weedsport went on a 8-2 run midway through the third on a 3 from Justin Miles and consecutive baskets by Owen Mabbett to snatch a lead that wouldn't be relinquished. In total, the Warriors outscored the Blue Devils 17-7 in the third quarter to go up 39-30.
Consecutive baskets by Ramacus and Swann pulled Cato-Meridian within five with 2:33 to go, but that was as close as it would get. A layup and two foul shots from Powers following a technical, then another basket, put Weedsport in front by 11 in the final minute to coast to the win.
"Not many teams can get up on Weedsport. You know it's going to be a battle when you come in here," Cato-Meridian coach Mike Vargason said. "Their energy and fast pace ... it came down to us getting sloppy and picking up fouls. We got into foul trouble and they made us pay at the free-throw line."
It's still early for both teams — Weedsport was playing its third game while it was only Cato-Meridian's second — which means a lot of players are still working on their chemistry while the coaches figure out proper lineups.
Sgarlata was clear that playing a rivalry game early in the season helped work out some kinks.
"They were really looking forward to this," Sgarlata said. "When they saw the schedule, even though they had games before this they circled Cato because they knew Cato was very good and a talented team."
Cato-Meridian is returning three players from the team that went 15-7 and won a sectional home game last year. Only one player on the Blue Devils' roster, guard Austin Hallett, is a senior.
"We've got a good group of juniors that's very talented," Vargason said. "One of the issues we face is that we haven't played together as a team for over a year. We're still trying to gel together and see who we are. This was a good battle for us. It was only our second game, so we've got some work to do."
Weedsport (3-0) travels to Faith Heritage Friday, while Cato-Meridian (1-1) is home against Port Byron Wednesday, Dec. 12.