Cougars fall short in sectional final
Saturday, March 01, 2014 12:25 AM
By Jim Cox
Van Wert’s Connor Holliday is roughed up by Ryan Mikesell (33) of St. Henry during the Div II boys sectional final at St. Marys on Friday night. Holliday and the Cougars saw their season come to a close with the loss. (Times Bulletin/Pat Agler)
Times Bulletin Correspondent
St. Marys — A stifling St. Henry matchup zone defense, and an athletic 6-foot-6 Division I college prospect in the middle of it, proved too much for Van Wert on Friday night. The Cougars fell 51-37 to finish their season at 11-13, while the Redskins advance to Division III district competition with a 17-7 record and a nine-game winning streak.
With the exception of a 16-4 second quarter, Van Wert played nearly toe-to-toe with the Redskins. St. Henry led only 12-8 after one quarter, with four of the Cougar points coming on layups by 6-foot-4 sophomore post Drew Myers, two on a nifty Matt Bidlack floater, and the other two on Connor Holliday free throws.
The second quarter, however, started with a 9-2 Redskin run and ended with a 7-0 Redskin run to make it 28-12 at the half. Van Wert’s four second-quarter points came on slashes into the lane by Holliday.
With good shots hard to come by, the Cougars hit only 5 of 19 field goal tries in the first half, several of those misses being blocked or misdirected by the aforementioned Ryan Mikesell. In the meantime, the Redskins were firing away at a 12-for-21 clip, the last of those 12 field goals being a buzzer-beating two-handed slam dunk by Mikesell.
The Cougars never posed a threat in the second half, although they matched St. Henry 8-8 in the third quarter and won the fourth stanza 17-15. In fact, the Redskins had only three field goals in the second half. They did, however, hit 17 of 21 free throws in the last 16 minutes, Mikesell accounting for 11-of-12 during that span.
“Tonight was kind of a synopsis of our season wrapped up in one game,” said Van Wert coach Mark Bagley. “We competed like crazy. We hung around in the first quarter. We had our lull in the second quarter, and that was a killer. Once we were down 16 at the half, we had to scramble a little bit. We kept on battling, but quite frankly, the better team won tonight. They do a great job, both offensively and defensively, and Mikesell was just the difference. He controlled both ends of the floor.”
Although that cold first half sealed the Cougars’ fate, they warmed up considerably from the field in the second half, hitting 9-of-16 tries to end up at 40 percent (14-for-35). That included 3-for-11 three-point shots. St. Henry was 15-for-31 (48 percent) from the field, including 3-of-12 from long range. The Redskins won the boards 19-13, but Van Wert had fewer turnovers, 9-11. Both teams were solid from the line, with St. Henry hitting 78 percent (18-of-23), Van Wert 75 percent (6-of-8).
Mikesell ended up with 25 points on 6-of-10 field goal shooting and 13-of-14 free throws. Sophomore sharpshooter Mitchel Stammen added 13. Holliday led Van Wert with 10.
The game was the last for seven Van Wert seniors: Michael Smelser, Nathan Stoller, Cody Keirns, Kyle Keber, Bidlack, Joey Moreland, and Elijah Wortman.
Bagley’s voice broke as he discussed those seven players. “I wouldn’t trade that group of kids for anybody,” he said. “They are hurtin’ kids right now. That goes for guys that don’t play very much and guys that play all the time. We’re gonna miss their leadership, their camaraderie, their teamwork. They’re great teammates. I’m really proud of how they handled themselves. They play with pride and class. They represent Van Wert basketball in the right way.”
Score by quarters
St. Henry 12 16 8 15- 51
Van Wert 8 4 8 17- 37
St. Henry (51)
Schweiterman 4, Bender 6, Stammen 13, Prenger 0, Mikesell 25, Jacobs 0, Niekamp 3
Van Wert (37)
Smelser 4, Kyle Keber 7, Bidlack 6, Holliday 10, Myers 4, Smith 0, Stoller 6, Keirns 0, Nick Keber 0, Moreland 0, Wortman 0