By DAVID HARPSTER
Independent sports writer
TUSCARAWAS TWP. After having trouble finding the range for most of the second and third quarters, the Tuslaw Mustangs discovered their offense in the nick of time Friday night.
Trailing visiting Fairless 29-28 late in the third quarter, Tuslaw went on a 20-4 run — hitting nine straight field goals at one point — to pave the way for a 50-45 win Principals Athletic Conference victory.
The win moved Tuslaw to 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the PAC, while Fairless fell to 3-5, 2-3.
After Zach Neuenschwander’s stickback with two minutes left in the third quarter put Fairless up 29-28, Tuslaw scored five points in the final 36 seconds to lead 33-29.
The final four came on consecutive Fairless turnovers and Tuslaw transition baskets, the first by Mark Meyer and the second from Graham Miller. Miller’s layin came off a Blaine Hewitt steal and barely beat the third-quarter buzzer.
“Clayton Scheetz and Graham Miller picked up the intensity on defense and got a couple steals, a couple deflections, and we scored off a couple fast breaks,” Tuslaw coach Kevin Lower said. “We wanted to run a little bit so we could score some transition buckets. We did a better job of that late in the third quarter with Graham and Clayton getting us going.”
Tuslaw hit its first seven shots in the fourth quarter to lead 48-34 at one point. Scheetz scored seven points during that span, including a three-point play, while 6-foot-10 sophomore John Carroll came off the bench for two big field goals.
Carroll was on the floor to match up against the 6-11 Neuenschwander, who finished with a team-high 13 points in his first game this season. Still, 11 of Neuenschwander’s points came in the first half.
“Zach Neuenschwander is a heck of a player and to hold him to just two points in the second half was just huge for us,” Lower said. “We talked about doubling down on him and fronting him.
“Our sophomore, John Carroll, really did a great job for us when he came in in the second half.”
Fairless coach Kevin Bille watched his team battle back from an early 11-3 deficit to trail 25-19 at half. The Falcons eventually tied matters at 25-all two minutes into the second half on John Regula’s 3-pointer. Austin Weyandt’s two free throws shortly thereafter put Fairless up 27-25.
The Falcons, though, did themselves no favors with four turnovers to end the third quarter. Five more in the first five minutes of the final period helped seal their fate.
“It caved in on us,” Bille said. “It’s about having some composure and it’s just having the ability to step up and make some plays when the lights are on.
“No bones about it, though, we got out-played, we got out-worked, we got out-executed, which is my fault. I take full responsibility for that and it’s got to get better.”
Josh Getz led Tuslaw with 13 points, nine of those coming on a trio of first-quarter 3-pointers.