Van Wert’s Drew Myers battles in the low post during Van Wert’s 53-46 loss to Wapak on Friday night. The Cougars fell to 9-11 overall with the defeat. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
By Jim Cox
Times Bulletin Correspondent
WAPAKONETA — Sometimes a basketball game simply comes down to which team is hitting its shots and which team isn’t. In Friday night’s Western Buckeye League battle at Wapakoneta, the Redskins hit a phenomenal 62 percent (21-for-34) of their field goal tries while Van Wert struggled mightily at 30 percent (17-of-57). The result was a 53-46 Wapak win. The rapidly improving Redskins are now 2-6 in the WBL and 5-12 overall, having won five of their last six games. The Cougars are 2-6 and 9-11.
The game was a tossup going into the fourth quarter. Van Wert’s Nathan Stoller had drilled a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the left corner to get the Cougars within 38-36 after three. However, the cold-shooting visitors went even colder in the fourth period, hitting only 3-of-18 field goal attempts. In the meantime, the home team was hitting 6-of-11 from the field.
Wapak’s Corey Crawford started the fourth quarter scoring with a put-back of his own miss. The Cougars’ Matt Bidlack drained a three from the right wing to pull the visitors within one at 40-39, but the Redskins answered with a 7-0 run to lead 47-39 at the 3:38 mark. Van Wert wasn’t done, however, thanks to a Kyle Keber straightaway trey at 3:27, cutting the lead to five. Van Wert then missed 3-of-4 free throw attempts to allow Wapakoneta to maintain a 47-43 lead.
Adam Henderson scored on a break, and after a missed Cougar front-end free throw and four missed field goal attempts, Crawford’s old-style three-point play sewed things up at 52-43 with only 44 seconds left on the clock.
Van Wert owned the first quarter, but that was as good as it got. The Cougars jumped out to an 8-2 lead on a treys by Connor Holliday and Michael Smelser, along with a Smelser elbow jumper. They led 16-9 after one.
Then, however, Wapak’s Kodi Morgan caught fire, landing three 3-pointers and an old-fashioned three-point play in the second stanza to totally turn things around. The ‘Skins led 27-24 at the half.
“We knew Morgan was a streaky player,” said Van Wert coach Mark Bagley. “He got hot, and we were going underneath screens, we weren’t chasing him, and, give him credit, he made the shots. After our quick start, we fell in love with jump shots, and we missed layups. That’s been the story of our season. That’s why we’re a .500 team, because we play great in spurts, and then we have a second quarter like we had tonight, and play absolutely horrendous in spurts.”
Holliday started the third quarter with a breakaway plus the and-one to tie it at 27-27. After a spinning layup by Crawford and a Smelser layup, it was tied again, but Wapak then got a 10-foot jumper by Ethan Good and another three-ball by Morgan to lead 34-29. The Cougars wouldn’t catch up again.
Other than field goal shooting, Van Wert had the best of it in all of the statistical categories. The Cougars won the boards 26-23 and had only eight turnovers in the game, while Wapak had 14. Van Wert hit 60 percent (6-of-10) from the line, while Wapak made only 33 percent (5-of-15).
Only three of the Redskins’ points came from seniors. They were led in scoring by two juniors, Morgan and Henderson, with 17 and 15. Sophomore Crawford added 11. Holliday, a junior, led the Cougars with 13. Seniors Smelser and Bidlack added 10 and 9.
“We got off to a great start, and that was probably the kiss of death, because we thought it was gonna be easy, shooting the basketball,” said Bagley. “We shot horribly from three. They made layups and we missed layups. They executed, and we didn’t execute. Give them all the credit in the world, but (it’s) disappointing that I thought we had things figured out. We’re on a roller coaster.”
Wapak (10-7) won the junior varsity game, 44-32. Cameron Lauck led the Redskins with 12 points. Colin Smith had 13 for Van Wert (13-7).
Score by quarters
Van Wert 16 8 12 10- 46
Wapakoneta 9 18 11 15- 53
Van Wert (46)
Smelser 10, K. Keber 5, Bidlack 9, Holliday 13, Myers 2, Stoller 3, Wortman 4, N. Keber 0, Moreland 0
Good 3, Morgan 17, Henderson 15, Metz 0, Crawford 11, Bruns 1, Huffman 4, Temple 2, Koch 0, Hinegardner 0, Schmerge 0