STROMSBURG — The Cross County Cougars boys basketball team got double-figure scoring from three of its players along the way to a 47-32 home-court victory over the Exeter-Milligan Timberwolves Friday night in Stromsburg.
The Cougars, who were 7-3 in their last 10 games entering Friday night, found themselves in a back-and-forth contest early in the game.
E-M, which was on a two-game winning streak before the game, answered nearly every basket the Cougars would get to fall.
The Cougars led just 14-10 after the first quarter, but E-M senior guard Sam Zeleny tied the game at 19 with 4:02 left before halftime after scoring four straight points off a short jumpshot and two free throws.
But Cross County had an answer for the Timberwolves, and that answer was a 8-0 run that involved senior guard Lane Gottula and his 6-foot-8 classmate Brady Langemeier with under two minutes left before the half.
Gottula, who has dished out a team-leading 55 assists this season for the Cougars, glided to the basket for two layups while Langemeier, who is the team’s leading rebounder with 7.7 on the year and has blocked 46 shots, grabbed an offensive rebound off a miss and put it back for two points. He also scored the first half’s last basket with 45 seconds left before the half on a nice turn-around shot after backing down his defender to give Cross County a healthy 27-19 halftime advantage.
The Timberwolves started the third quarter off well with two-point scores from Zeleny and 6-foot-4 forward Cameron White to cut into the Cougars’ lead, 29-23, four minutes in, but, again, Cross County answered a 7-0 run.
During that Cougar stretch, Gottula and Langemeier both got layups to fall while Matthew Relihan drove the lane and put up a short jumper while getting fouled. He made the shot and sank the and-one attempt after to give coach Dan Conway’s club a 36-23 lead with 1:54 left in the third.
E-M fought back and wouldn’t go away, though. Before the third quarter ended, Timberwolves’ junior guard Trevor Luzum converted on two acrobatic shots inside the lane over the bigger Cross County forwards to cut the E-M deficit to 36-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
The final stanza didn’t go as coach Dean Filipi and his Timberwolves would have wanted. The Cougars offense didn’t miss a beat, rattling off 11 points while their defense held E-M to just five.
Cross County started the fourth quarter on a 8-0 run with a couple buckets from junior guard Kenny Wright, the team’s leading scorer at 11.8 points per game, then added more shots that found the bottom of the net from — you guessed it — Langemeier and Gottula.
E-M stopped the run by getting to the free-throw line. Eric Olsen was fouled and hit the front-end of his two shots while Zeleny did the same the next possession.
The fourth quarter buzzer sounded with the Cougars on top 47-32.
Offensively for Cross County, Langemeier led the way with 14 points while Relihan had 13. Gottula added 12 and Kenny Wright scored four. Both Aaron Tidyman and Aaron Giannou scored two points.
For E-M, Zeleny led with 11 points while Trevor Luzum had 10. White scored five while Olsen and Patrick Murphy each had three.
The Cougars improve to 18-4 on the season while the Timberwolves drop to 8-12.
Cross County will play its last regular season game at home in Stromsburg Friday night against the Friend Bulldogs (4-14) while E-M will also be at home Friday night when it takes on the Dorchester Longhorns (1-17).
Exeter-Milligan (8-12) ........................ 10 9 8 5- 32
Cross County (18-4) .......................... 14 13 9 11- 47