AVON — Avon battled through adversity in the first half, overcoming two blown leads before locking things down defensively and converting late free throws in the fourth quarter to squeak out a 70-66 win over North Ridgeville in Southwestern Conference action Friday.
Mike Matlak converted both free throws with 1:17 left to push the Eagles (5-1, 4-0 SWC) ahead 67-66. He came through again with 47.7 seconds left, hitting just one free throw to extend the lead to 68-66. The performance was a welcome turnaround for Matlak, who had struggled down the stretch from the free throw line, converting only four shots on six attempts.
“Originally Dom (Rini) was at the line, and I let that slide because he’s a little bit better of a free-throw shooter than me, but then they made me shoot,” Matlak said. “I had to clutch up and make both of them and then split the other ones which definitely helped us.”
“Mike kind of struggled in those middle quarters. Some guys struggle in the middle quarters but, hey, that’s over. Turn the page, and that’s over,” Avon coach Mike Fitch said. “He knows to turn the page and keep playing.”
Avon not only used the free-throw line to its advantage in the waning minutes, but also throughout the game. Rini attacked the rim continuously for the Eagles, hitting seven of 10 free throws on his way to 21 points. Niko Pappas also attempted five free throws.
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