Hvisdak’s clutch free throws lift Lowellville past United

Matt Hvisdak hit 8 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to lift the Rockets to victory

Matt Hvisdak hit 8 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter to lift the Rockets to victory.

LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – In a battle between two-second place teams in their respective leagues, the Lowellville Rockets pulled out a hard-fought 65-64 win over the United Eagles. The Rockets currently sit in second place of the MVAC with a 15-3 record, while the Eagles hold a runner-up spot in the EOAC, falls to 14-6 on the season.

The Rockets won the game courtesy of confident shooting from the foul line as they connected on 11 of 15 shots in the final quarter. In contrast, the Eagles only hit 1 of 5 free throws in the final stanza.

“This guy right here (Matt Hvisdak), every day after practice he makes ten free throws on this basket for that exact reason,” Rockets head coach Matt Olson said with a laugh. “So every day we shoot them.”

“Free throws in that fourth quarter hurt us,” Eagles head coach Chris Kadvan admitted. “If I had to pick something apart, that fourth quarter we were one for five which killed us because they were eleven for fifteen. So if you think about that, we were one of five in critical moments of the game.”

The Rockets Matt Hvizdak would hit 8 of 10 shots from the charity line in the fourth, including 5 of 6 in the last 20-seconds of the game. He would ice the game with just 4-seconds left when he gave the Rockets a 4-point 65-61 lead. United’s Kaden Smith would bomb a three-pointer at the buzzer to pull within 1-point in the final score.

“My coach always wants me to shoot at this (home side) hoop for at the end of the game,” Hvisdak explained. “He wants the ball in my hands so I can hit them. So every single day I have to make ten before I can leave practice.”

Neither team had a lead larger than 7-points in the contest as the Rockets held an 18-15 lead at the end of the first quarter. When the Eagles Dakota Hill hit two free throws with only 11-seconds remaining before halftime, the Eagles carried a slim 34-33 lead into the locker rooms at intermission.

The Eagles would go on an 8-2 run to start the second half to reach that 7-point advantage at 42-35 at the 3:49 mark of the third quarter. But with Hvisdak hitting a basket with 8-seconds left in the frame the Rockets tied the game at 44 at the conclusion of the period.

When Smith hit a basket with 1:15 left in the game, the Eagles grabbed their last lead of the contest at 58-56. But Hvisdak countered with a three-pointer just 11-seconds later to give the Rockets a 59-58 advantage. From there, Hvisdak would toe the foul line in carrying the Rockets to victory.

“I knew in the first half my shot was a loft, I knew I was short,” Hvisdak said. “So coming into the second half I knew to just put a little more on it and I was fine.”

“We knew it was going to be a battle. We just came off an emotional game against McDonald so we knew we needed to bring the energy. United is a great team with 14 wins just like we have,” Olson remarked. “They (United) shot the heck out of the ball. It’s a great team.”

“I knew coming into this game with watching them, that personnel wise we match up against each other very well,” Kadvan said. “We both finished in second place in our leagues for a reason. We are both going to be higher seeds in our districts for a reason. So we knew it was going to be a four-quarter battle.”

The loss overshadowed a tremendous performance by the Eagles Kaden Smith who scored a game-high 28 points while teammates Dakota Hill netted 12 followed by Parker Hydrick and Alex Birtalan scoring 11 a piece. Hydrick would lead the Eagles on the boards with 9 rebounds followed by Landon Baker with 7 and Smith with 5.

The Rockets were led by Hvisdak with 26 points on the night while Alex Mamula-Zarlingo had 18 and Nate Solak contributed 11. Mamula-Zarlingo dominated on the boards all night as he gathered 17 caroms.

“We felt like we could outrebound them because they play mostly guards out on the perimeter,” Olson said. “Between Alex and Jake (Rotz) our two big guys, we felt like we could definitely get them on the rebounds.”

Lowellville will return to action on Saturday night as they host league foe Jackson-Milton. Next on United’s schedule is another tough road contest as they travel to Western Reserve next Friday.


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