Cheyenne Handy fires a pass along the baseline during Van Wert’s 50-43 non-conference win over LCC on Tuesday. Handy scored nine points in the victory. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
By Jim Cox
Times Bulletin Correspondent
VAN WERT — With Van Wert’s leading scorer held to seven points and its second-leading scorer out with an injury, a lot of points had to come from the supporting cast Tuesday night against Lima Central Catholic, and they did. The Lady Cougars used a stingy defense and a balanced scoring attack to hold off the Lady Thunderbirds 50-43. Van Wert is now 16-4. LCC is 13-5.
After a 9-0 LCC run tied it at 36 with 5:15 left in the game, the Cougars grabbed the lead back and held on to it from there. Alexa Dunlap scored on a breakaway layup, was fouled on the shot, and swished the free throw for a 39-36 Van Wert lead. After Erin Morrow netted a free throw for the Cougars, LCC’s Meredith Shepherd was fouled on put-backs on two straight possessions, and she split the freebies both times to narrow the gap to 40-38.
Dunlap escaped again and scored on a Morrow assist, but the persistent Shepherd snared another offensive rebound and stuck it back in to bring the T-birds back within a pair at 42-40.
Cougar Cheyenne Handy was fouled on a baseline drive and hit both foul shots, but Shepherd countered with a 3-pointer from the left wing, and it was 44-43 at 2:07. Again, Handy came up big, driving the baseline and laying one in to push the lead to three.
Van Wert’s Kaitlyn Hall missed the front-end of a one-and-one, but Claire Butler saved the day by snaring the miss and muscling in a layup to make it 48-43 with 43 seconds remaining. LCC misfired, and the 5-foot-flat Hall rebounded, was fouled with three seconds left, and made both free throws to account for the final margin.
The first quarter was a toss-up with one tie and six lead changes. Each team hit three treys. The Cougars were down 13-12 late, but sub Emily Bair hit a free throw to tie it, then stole the ball and went the distance to make it 15-13 after one.
Van Wert’s full-court man pressure began to take its toll on LCC in the second quarter, forcing eight turnovers in those eight minutes, during which the T-Birds hit only one field goal in ten tries. Dunlap scored the Cougs’ last five points on a layup and three free throws. That gave the home team a solid 30-18 halftime lead, winning the quarter 15-5.
LCC, however, reversed things in the third quarter, giving the Cougars a dose of their own medicine with back-court pressure that forced eight turnovers and a 2-for-11 field goal shooting performance. LCC ended the quarter with a 6-0 run, and the Van Wert lead narrowed to 36-33 at the break. The Birds extended that 6-0 run by scoring the first three points of the fourth period to lead to the aforementioned 36-36 tie and the dramatic last five minutes.
“They turned up the intensity on the defensive end in the third quarter, got in the passing lanes, and we were throwing long soft passes that they were easily getting to,” said Van Wert head coach Lance Moonshower. “We just didn’t react. We talked about it in practice, make some ball fakes, backdoor cuts, things like that, because they’re aggressive and they’re quick.”
Seven Cougars got into the scoring column, led by Dunlap’s 12. Leading scorer Morrow had only seven. Shepherd and Kayla Verhoff led a balanced LCC attack with 12 and 11.
“She (Dunlap) played a really good game,” said Moonshower. “She’s been sick on and off. It’s been kinda tough for her to get into any kind of rhythm because she’s been in and out of practice and in and out of games. Tonight we really needed her because of their speed. We had to rotate several guards, and she stepped up big.”
Van Wert was missing its leading rebounder and second-leading scorer, Alexis Dowdy, out with a calf/knee/hamstring injury. She is expected to miss at least a week, her return depending upon rehab progress.
Score by quarters:
LCC 13 5 15 10 - 43
Van Wert 15 15 6 14 - 50
Santaguida 3, Shepherd 12, Mohler 8, Stolly 7, Verhoff 11, Kidd 2, Snider 0
Van Wert (50)
Hall 7, Butler 4, Handy 9, Morrow 7, Moonshower 0, Jones 6, Dunlap 12, Bair 5, Weigle 0