RANDOLPH - It's been a difficult two days for the Randolph Cardinals.
Just about 24 hours after suffering a 26-point defeat to Silver Creek, a squad that is arguably the top team for Class C in the state, the Cardinals hosted rival Maple Grove, a group ranked similarly high in the state poll (third, actually) and a favorite to reach the Section 6 finals later this month.
"We've had a big couple of nights," Randolph coach Kevin Hind said, "two very tough teams back-to-back."
Maple Grove’s Austin Goerke, left, guards Randolph’s Nate Beaver in the low post during Saturday’s Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association non-league basketball game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
And unfortunately, at least for the Cardinals' faithful on hand Saturday evening, a second top-flight foe in as many nights equaled a second defeat in as many nights as well.
After an opening period that saw two ties and nine lead changes, Maple Grove, a Division 3 team, pulled away in the second quarter and never looked back, outrebounding and outworking Randolph, a Division 2 team, on the way to a 15th consecutive victory, 66-50.
"There was a stretch there for two quarters when they played harder than us," Hind said after his team dropped to 10-7 overall. "They wanted it, they went after it, we didn't do a good job of boxing out and they must have had 15 or 20 more second shots than we did. They had a whole bunch of second opportunities; they just went after the ball, and we didn't."
Maple Grove (16-1, 14-0) outrebounded Randolph 34 to 25, used a quick and pesky press to force 16 turnovers and held the Cardinals' bench scoreless throughout the game. Austin Goerke, working under the hoop, netted 16 points with 10 boards; Graham Soffel had 10 points and 10 rebounds; Aaron Germain connected on three 3-pointers, including two in the final period, for a game-high 18 points; and Will Soffel scored 10 points to go along with 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals.
"Every guy made a big play tonight," Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer said. "That's teamwork, and you can't ask for anything more than that."
Randolph's final lead of the game came at the 2:44 mark of the first quarter, when Cody Oldro tallied a putback off an offensive board to make the score 12-11. Immediately following that bucket, however, Goerke sunk a mid-range jumper to recapture the lead and then Jim Kistner, taking advantage of a Randolph zone that was slow to rotate, hit a trey from the right wing to push the cushion to four, 16-12, by the end of the period.
Maple Grove went on an 11-5 run over next five minutes, extending the lead to 10 before Mitch Maycock drilled a triple of his own to cut the deficit back down to seven.
That would be the closest Randolph could manage the rest of the way.
"We just let it get away from us too soon," Hind said. "We didn't handle their pressure very well. We missed a lot of easy layups, a lot of easy looks and that happens when they put good pressure on you, but those are hard to recover from."
Leading in defeat was Bryce Morrison, who finished with 16 points and three assists, Taylor Miller, who had 13 points, and Cody Oldro, who pulled in eight rebounds.
While the Cardinals refused to go down easy - they pulled to within nine, 36-27, early in the third and then 12, 53-41, midway through the fourth - it was Maple Grove's ability to answer that had Fischer most impressed, and most encouraged.
"I was very proud of the way they didn't lose their cool," he said, "even though there were times they could have. What we tried to stress was staying calm, staying cool. (Randolph) was trying to make things happen (to make up the deficit), and by staying calm we got a couple of back-door plays and some huge baskets."
In the third, the Red Dragons answered Randolph's comeback try with a quick 7-0 run (capped by another Kistner trey) and then in the fourth, with just three minutes remaining, responded with an 11-0 spurt to push the lead back to 20, 64-44, effectively ending the contest there.
Before Saturday, Maple Grove had won its last nine games by an average of 32 points.
"This was a big test for us," Fischer said. "(Randolph) is a great team with a great coach. They're always going to play unbelievable basketball."
MAPLE GROVE (66)
G. Soffel 5 0 10, Goerke 8 0 16, Germain 6 3 18, Kistner 2 0 6, W. Soffel 5 0 10, Wefing 1 1 4, Tampe 1 0 2. Totals 28 4 66.
Beaver 4 0 8, Miller 5 1 13, Morrison 4 5 16, Oldro 2 0 4, Maycock 3 0 9. Totals 18 6 50.
3-point goals: Germain 3, Kistner 2, Wefing, Miller 2, Morrison 3, Maycock 3.
Maple Grove16 16 13 21 - 66
Randolph12 12 9 17 - 50
Jayvees: Randolph won.