Van Wert’s Connor Holliday (24) challenges the defensive prowess of Ryan Mikesell of St. Henry. Holliday was held to a single point in the Cougars’ loss. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
By Jim Cox
Times Bulletin Correspondent
VAN WERT — Twice previously — against Kalida and Coldwater — Van Wert came back from disastrous first quarters to pull out victories. Saturday night against St. Henry there would be no such comeback. The Redskins’ defense stymied the Cougars with a 15-2 first period, and the home team never got closer than ten after that, eventually suffering a 52-37 loss. Van Wert is now 8-10. St. Henry is 12-7.
“We put forth a great effort last night against Defiance, but (tonight) we were not ready to play mentally,” said Cougar coach Mark Bagley. “I’m thoroughly disappointed in our effort. As head coach it’s my responsibility to get our kids ready, and we weren’t tonight.”
Van Wert turned the ball over on four of its first five possessions, leading to a 15-2 Redskin lead after one quarter. The only Cougar bucket came on a mid-court steal and layup by senior Matt Bidlack. St. Henry’s 6-foot-6 junior, Ryan Mikesell, who played every position at one time or another in this game, had seven of the visitors’ 15 first-quarter points. He also swatted away three of the Cougars’ inside field goal tries.
St. Henry pushed the lead out to 20 at 27-7 with 3:39 left in the second quarter before the situation improved, if only slightly, for the Cougars. Senior sharpshooter Kyle Keber hit two 3-pointers, and Bidlack swiped the ball again, scoring on a Mikesell goal-tend.
The Redskins led 32-15 at the half. At that point, St. Henry was 13-for-18 from the field, and Mikesell had 13 points. Van Wert was only 6-for-19 from the field, with several of those misses being Mikesell blocks. The visitors, with Mikesell being their only player over 6-foot-2, had an 11-4 rebounding edge.
The third quarter was the Cougars’ best. Although St. Henry led 44-21 at the 4:26 mark, Van Wert then scored ten in a row, including Keber’s third trey of the quarter and fifth of the game, to cut the margin to 44-31 after three. The Redskins had an uncharacteristic six turnovers in the third stanza. Mikesell didn’t score during those eight minutes, and, in fact, didn’t attempt a shot.
At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Nick Keber’s three from the right corner extended the Van Wert run to 13-0 and cut the margin to 44-34. However, Mikesell then took charge at the offensive end, scoring all eight of St. Henry’s fourth quarter points, on three layups and two free throws, to eliminate any dreams of a Cougar comeback.
Emblematic of Van Wert’s offensive frustration was the fact that the Cougs’ three inside threats, leading scorer Bidlack, second-leading scorer Connor Holliday, and 6-foot-4 sophomore Drew Myers, had a total of seven points in the game. Of those, Myers’ second quarter left-handed baby hook accounted for the only true points in the paint. Much of that was due to Mikesell.
“He’s a Division I player,” said Bagley. “He’s long, and he’s athletic. He blocked a lot of shots, and we got tentative. All credit goes to St. Henry. They totally put it to us. We got exactly what we deserved tonight.”
Except for turnovers, where Van Wert committed eight to St. Henry’s 11, the Redskins dominated the stats. They shot 61 percent (20-of-33) from the field while the Cougars shot 38 percent (14-of-37). St. Henry won the boards 22-8 and hit 88 percent (7-of-8) from the line. Van Wert only shot two free throws in the entire game, hitting one.
Keber was the lone Cougar in double figures with 17, which included five treys. He was 6-for-7 from the field overall. Unfortunately for Van Wert, he also had the primary defensive responsibility on Mikesell, thus spending a lot of time on the bench with foul trouble, and eventually fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Mikesell led St. Henry scoring with 22, and junior Evan Prenger added 12.
The Cougar junior varsity improved to 12-6 with their 44-38 win. Trailing 31-23 after three quarters, St. Henry scored 15 straight points to take a 38-31 lead, but Van Wert reeled off the last 13 points of the game for the win. Colin Smith and Ryan McCracken led the Cougar scoring with 18 and 10. Justin Allen and Evan Lefeld had 10 apiece for the Redskins.
Score by quarters
St. Henry 15 17 12 8- 52
Van Wert 2 13 16 6- 37
St. Henry (52)
Schwieterman 5, Bender 2, Stammen 7, Prenger 12, Mikesell 22, Jacobs 2, Niekamp 2, Knapke 0
Van Wert (37)
Smelser 0, Kyle Keber 17, Bidlack 4, Holliday 1, Myers 2, Stoller 6, Nick Keber 5, Wortman 2, Henry 0, Smith 0, Keirns 0, Moreland 0