VIENNA — For the first time in a decade, the boys’ end of the Northeastern Athletic Conference has a new champion.
While clinching the title a few days ago, Mathews got to celebrate on its home court Friday night, cutting down the nets after a 82-36 victory over Badger to close out its regular season.
A non-Bristol school last won the league title in 2012, where it was also Mathews.
“Senior night is always an emotionally-charged night,” Mustangs coach Mike Weymer said. “You want to send your seniors off the right way. I was happy for our kids. They played really well tonight, we shared the ball well, they got up and down the floor which we were begging for them to do. We haven’t always shot the ball as well as we can during games, and I feel like tonight it all came together and made a magical senior night.”
The game was evenly-matched early as the teams played to a 9-9 tie, but Mathews then went on a 16-point run late in the first quarter and never looked back.
Vinny Sharp, who finished with 31 points on the night, had seven first half 3-pointers and 23 total first half points in his final regular season game at home.
Sharp was one of four players to score in double-figures as fellow seniors Dominic Greenwood (12), Tyler Hopkinson (11) and Vincent Greenwood (10) also reached the mark.
The Mustangs’ senior class has been crucial to the team’s success on and off the court. While falling just short the last couple years, the Class of 2022 knows it’s their time and are determined to make the most of it. That being said however, their main priority is round one.
“Our main goal is obviously to win the district championship, that’s been our main goal, but we’re taking it day by day right now,” Hopkinson said. “Right now, we’re focused on Bloomfield. I’m focused on practice on Sunday. That’s all I care about right now. “
Mathews finishes its season with a 21-1 record, with its only blemish coming to an early-season loss to Lakeview.
One thing that’s been different about this team is their response to adversity. Before, mental toughness would have been a hiccup of theirs, but now, the Mustangs know how to take a punch to the mouth and deliver one back.
“For them, the biggest growth over the last year has been their attitude,” Weymer said. “Just how much they’ve grown emotionally and mentally to withstand the ups and downs of games. Good teams are going to make runs. That’s just part of the process. I think when they were young, because they had some success when they were younger, when a team came back at them, they didn’t really know how to respond.
“Now I feel like we’ve been through the trenches the last few years, like they realize it, teams are going to go on runs and they’re going to try to minimize it.
The Mustangs open their tournament run on Tuesday when they host 26th-seeded Bloomfield in a first round sectional matchup. The winner advances to face Ashtabula St. John.
Badger ends its season at 10-12 (6-10 NAC) and kicks off its tournament at home against Jackson-Milton in the Division IV Struthers District.