BOWLING GREEN – Snake bitten before at the district level, it appeared to be on the verge of happening again Saturday afternoon. Then, the block happened. From that point on Wauseon was in control as the Indians, who haven’t played in a boys basketball regional since 1994, will head back after disposing of Woodward 57-45.
Leading 32-19 at the half, Wauseon knew Woodward had at least one run in them. It came in the opening minutes of the third period, as the Polar Bears scored a quick five points to cut the lead to single digits at 32-24.
The game got much closer than that, as Charles Robinson scored in the paint to cut the lead to 36-31 with 3:43 left in the period. On the ensuing possession, Wauseon turned the ball over and Woodward had a breakaway, with a sure dunk coming to electrify the crowd.
However, someone forgot to tell junior center Austin Rotroff of Wauseon that. The 6-9 big guy raced back and not only stopped the play, but turned the game, and potentially Wauseon’s season, around.
“I think our crowd was holding their breath a little bit,” Wauseon coach Chad Burt said of the play. “We have a lot of people here who have been supporting us all year. When Charles Robinson had what looked like a breakaway dunk, but Rotroff met him at the rim and you don’t see that very often in high school basketball.
“I think they were getting very comfortable offensively,” added Burt, talking about Woodward in the third period. “We did a good job in the first half of limiting their transition.”
Rotroff blocked the would-be dunk, and from there Wauseon was in control. He added a free throw at the other end of the floor to start a 5-2 run to push the lead to 40-33 at the end of the period. He added an offensive rebound and putback on a missed free throw by Carter Bzovi to get the final period started.
“I saw him going for it and I thought ‘I’m either going to get dunked on or I’m going to block it,” Rotroff said of his big defensive play. “I blocked it and that was a big moment.”
Brendan Britsch added a drive and score bucket to push the lead back to double digits.
When the Polar Bears did make a run, which came during a three-point play by Jaymar Robinson, the Indians had an answer as Brooks Gype buried a triple from the wing to make the score 51-38 with 3:41 left to play.
Woodward got no closer than 11 points the rest of the way as the Indians were able to run out the final minute of the clock to get the win.
The Indians came out on fire and used a 12-0 run to lead 18-6 at the end of the opening frame. Rotroff, who led all scorers with 19 points in the contest, chipped in with a couple of dunks. Bzovi added a basket and Levi Seiler, who had a shot blocked along the baseline, kept with it and added a putback basket.
“It’s no secret we’re going to try to get inside,” Burt said of the Wauseon offensive attack. “Our guys are intelligent. The better game he (Rotroff) has, it’s going to open up stuff on the perimeter.”
The teams traded baskets in the second period, with Woodward getting a tough off-balance shot from Demetrius Barry and a steal and dunk from Charles Robinson to close the gap to 32-19 by the break.
Rotroff added 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots in the contest for the Indians. Gype had a well-rounded 14 points, eight boards and four assists. Bzovi added 10 points and six rebounds. Owen Newlove was also a part of the offense, scoring five points and dishing out five assists.
Wauseon finished 23 of 43 from the floor and committed 12 turnovers. Woodward was 19 of 56 from the floor and had six turnovers.
Up next for the Indians is a match-up with Sandusky Thursday at Savage Arena in Toledo.
“It’s a great feeling but we’ll need to come in the next three days and practice and prepare,” senior Bzovi said of advancing to the regional. “We’re not satisfied with what we’ve accomplished so far.”
Game time is 6:15 p.m.
Indians top Napoleon in double OT
Wauseon had to fend off the Brett Lauf led Napoleon Wildcats in the semifinal Wednesday, but they overcame numerous lead changes and momentum swings to win in double overtime, 59-57.
Lauf knocked down eight three pointers and finished with 28 points, however, his final attempt from beyond the arc barely grazed the front of the iron allowing the Indians to celebrate.
“I told Brett Lauf after the game, that I’ve been (around) Northwest Ohio basketball for a long long time. Played, coached and so forth. He’s gotta be one of the top two or three best players I’ve seen,” said victorious coach Chad Burt. “His basketball IQ and making shots. And just his sense of the game, understanding when Napoleon needs a big play. He steps up and makes big plays.”
Wauseon clung to a four point lead late in the third quarter until Napoleon got a bucket from Reid Sonnenberg and a triple from Brennan Druhot to put the Wildcats on top, 41-40, at the 2:39 mark.
Brooks Gype converted from beyond the arc with 1:28 left to give the Indians the lead heading into the fourth.
Gype scored on a drive to the hoop to begin the final frame, and Austin Rotroff tacked on a pair of free throws and a bucket in the post to make it 49-41 just over a minute in.
But just when it looked as if the Indians would pull away, Lauf took control of the game.
First he hit a pair from the foul line, then he banged in consecutive triples to knot the score with 4:56 to play.
“The reality is, you know we talked (before the game), he (Lauf) is gonna take and make unguardable shots,” said Burt. “If there is such a thing as holding a guy to 28, I thought we held him to 28. I think you’ve got to give their other kids credit. Their other kids really stepped up and made shots.
“I thought they (Napoleon) played a very good basketball game.”
Rotroff reclaimed the lead for Wauseon by going 1 for 2 at the line, however, Landon Willeman got free for a triple to make it 52-50 in favor Napoleon with 3:04 left in regulation.
The Indians got a basket inside from Rotroff at the 2:19 mark, once again knotting the score. Rotroff was closely defended for most of the game but he led the Indians with 25 points, 11 of those coming at the charity stripe.
“(Reid) Sonnenberg and I think (Brennan) Druhot, they are really physical kids,” said the Wauseon big man after the game. “It was probably the most physical game I’ve ever played in. Being guarded by those guys that hacked me sometimes. But, I think you’ve just go to get better from that. Learn to play through it and it’s gonna be even tougher going down the trail (in the tournament).”
Napoleon had the final shot in regulation but Lauf’s attempt was no good, sending the game into overtime.
“They (Wauseon) don’t play too many close games because they’re so good. And they get big leads,” said Napoleon coach Joe Good. “We thought maybe they were a little tired. A couple of their shots were a little right and a little left. We thought maybe we had them. We just couldn’t get that bucket to take the lead and hold onto it late.”
Rotroff’s three-point play and a Lauf three from near the BG emblem at halfcourt were the only points in the first overtime as the score was tied at 55 heading into the second extra session.
Rotroff hit 2 of 4 free throws in the first two minutes of the second overtime, then Lauf got a putback basket to keep the score tied with 2:03 to go. The Wauseon center would split a pair from the line at the 1:39 mark, and then 54 seconds later, putting the Indians up 59-57.
After numerous timeouts for strategy by both teams, Napoleon managed to work the ball to Lauf for the final shot from the right wing, and although some on the Wauseon bench thought it was good, his shot fell short.
“I saw the ball going in,” explained Burt. “I thought it was on line. It looked like a pretty good stroke. We didn’t defensively execute the final play the way that we would’ve liked to. The defensive play was not to give Brett Lauf a three at the buzzer. I’ll put it that way.”
After Rotroff, Gype finished with 16 points and Bzovi added 12 for Wauseon. For the Wildcats, Sonnenberg scored 13.
Max Householder contributed to this article