By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
VAN WERT — The Van Wert Lady Cougars had a decided advantage in their contest against county rival Lincolnview on Saturday afternoon. The Lady Lancers knew they couldn’t match Van Wert’s size, Van Wert’s experience, or Van Wert’s depth. In the end, those proved to be obstacles too large to overcome and the Cougars claimed a 54-38 win.
“Our girls definitely battled for four quarters,” noted Lincolnview head coach Dan Williamson after the game. “The size difference, we’re going to face that all season, but our girls never backed down for a minute of the game and we matched them toe-to-toe, for the most part. (Van Wert) just had a little bit more depth, they could rest their kids a little bit more, and I thought that was the difference there at the end.”
The difference in the beginning, however, was negligible.
The Lancers varsity roster goes only nine deep on a normal night, but was without sophomore Katie McClure, who left the JV contest with an injury.
Despite facing a roster that boasts 11 juniors and seniors, Lincolnview not only stood up to the Cougars, but they matched Van Wert every step of the way in the opening period.
After Van Wert established an early 3-0 lead, Lancer sophomore Ashton Bowersock took a feed from Julia Thatcher to get Lincolnview on the board. A pair of Thatcher free throws gave the Lady Lancers their first, and only, lead of the afternoon at 4-3.
Alexi Dowdy put the Cougars on top with a fast-break layup and Claire Butler put home an offensive rebound before Emilie Moonshower’s basket inside made it a 9-4 game.
Lincolnview was undeterred, however, and went on a quick 5-0 spurt to knot the score, getting a jumper from Thatcher and three-point field goal from senior Christine Stemen.
“We needed to come out early and match their intensity and match their physicality, and I thought we did that pretty well,” added Williamson, whose team held a 7-6 advantage on the boards in the first period.
The Cougars, who had left some points on the floor in the first, got hot in the second, jumping out to a 12-2 run thanks to some outstanding shooting.
Threes by Riley Jones and Erin Morrow to go with a pair of buckets by Cheyenne Handy pushed the Lady Cougars out to a 21-11 advantage that became 26-16 at halftime. The Lady Cougars went 6-for-7 from the field in the second quarter.
As the second half unfolded, Van Wert’s full-court pressure defense began to take its toll on Lincolnview’s girls.
“We knew that coming in they weren’t very deep and that’s why we kept pressing,” said Van Wert head coach Lance Moonshower, whose team improved to 10-2 on the year. “We knew we could run a few more numbers out there than they could, and I think in the second half that started to take its tool. We were able to get a few steals and easy buckets there in the full-court press, and I think that was a big difference.”
The Cougars opened the second half scoring with a Morrow three which would prove to be the difference in the period. The Lancers got buckets by Bowersock and Katlyn Wendel, but trailed by 13 headed to the fourth.
Van Wert pushed the edge to as many as 15 early in the period, but Lincolnview battled back and cut the lead to nine by forcing three straight Van Wert turnovers.
That was as close as they would get, however, as Butler and Morrow scored four points each down the stretch to put the game away.
Score by quarters
Lincolnview 9 7 6 16- 38
Van Wert 9 17 9 19- 54
Lincolnview (38) Bowersock 11, Clay 1, Thatcher 14, McCleery 0, Stemen 8, Wendel 2, Gorman 2
Van Wert (54) Jones 8, Hall 0, Dowdy 11, Butler 6, Morrow 17, Moonshower 2, Handy 6, Dunlap 1, Bair 0, Weigel 3