TOLEDO – It took a little longer than they would have liked, but Wauseon boys basketball rebounded after losing the lead in regulation to outscore Elida 14-5 in overtime for a 54-45 win to claim the regional title in Division II Saturday at Savage Arena in Toledo.
“You feel no lead is ever safe, especially in the regional finals,” said an elated coach Chad Burt after the game. “I thought we were playing well and doing some good things, and all of the sudden, boy Elida hit another gear and made some big late shots. Their big game players made some big plays, but our big game players made some big plays too. What a battle.”
The win advances the Indians to state for just the fourth time in school history and first since 1994, when Burt was a senior athlete on the team.
“It means a lot,” said junior center Austin Rotroff of the achievement. “It was one of our goals at the beginning of the season. We worked really hard this season towards it. I think we are playing our best basketball right now.”
Brooks Gype split a pair of free throws for Wauseon with 2:49 left in the fourth quarter to give them a 38-30 lead, however, it was all Elida down the stretch.
The Bulldogs’ Baylen Stinson got five straight points and after a Wauseon turnover, Drew Samo buried a triple which knotted the score and made the Elida fans erupt with cheers.
The cheers would get even louder after another empty possession for the Indians when Stinson scored inside to put the Bulldogs on top, 40-38, with 1:07 to go.
However, Wauseon regained some momentum thanks to Gype, who drew a foul and calmly knocked down two free throws to tie it again with 22 ticks remaining.
“I missed a few earlier before that, so I knew I had to step up there with confidence. Stroke the two that were most important at the time,” said Gype. “That was the outcome.”
Daniel Unruh had a shot for Elida at the buzzer but it fell short, sending the contest to overtime.
The Indians reclaimed their magic from earlier in the game in overtime as Rotroff converted an out of bounds play 15 seconds in, then he added a three-point play to put them up five.
Another triple for Samo cut the Indians’ lead to two, then Gype added a pair of free throws on two separate occasions around a Bulldog turnover to put it at 49-43 at the 1:21 mark.
He was 8 of 8 from the line in the extra session.
“It’s just his mentality. I think that he just got into a rhythm,” said Burt of Gype. “He hit the first two, the second two are a little easier. He wanted the ball.”
Elida had a chance to cut into the lead eight seconds later but Unruh missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Wauseon hit four more from the line in the final minute, while Unruh knocked down two for the Bulldogs to end it.
“We knew they were gonna make a run and they did,” said Rotroff. “But we just had to keep our cool and regroup as a team. Just let each other know that we can’t let them speed us up or anything. We’ve got to play our game. And we went into overtime, played our game and came out with the win.”
The junior big man came out hot with 10 points in the opening quarter, pushing Wauseon out to a 12-7 advantage.
“I knew I had to play a good game. Take advantage of my size in the post. Luckily, my teammates found me and I was able to do that,” he said of his good start.
Elida was limited to just an Unruh triple in the second quarter. Wauseon took a 19-10 lead into the break.
Rotroff finished with 24 points to lead all scorers. Gype added 17 for the Indians.
The Bulldogs were held to 32 percent (17 for 52) from the field for the game and just 19 percent (4 for 21) in the first half. Stinson had 17 points and Unruh 13 for the Dogs.
The Wauseon fan base was in full force for the Indians’ big win Saturday, and they will likely be in attendance this Thursday when they take on Eastmoor Academy at 10:45 a.m in the state semifinal game at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus.
“They’ve ridden us all year. And today was no different,” said Burt on the support from the community. “It’s just been an awesome thing the way our community has supported us. Our kids have bought into that, and just really appreciated that.”
Indians stifle Sandusky in semifinal
Wauseon used stifling defense and a red hot 55 percent shooting effort to handle Sandusky 54-33 in the regional semifinal Thursday at Savage Arena. The win was the Indians’ 24th straight victory, as they have not suffered defeat since the beginning of December.
Wauseon held Sandusky to 28 percent (14 for 50) from the floor and just 5 of 24 from behind the arc.
“I thought Carter Bzovi did a great job forcing (Jayrese) Williams into tough shots,” said Wauseon coach Chad Burt of his squad’s defense. “He had a lot of help with our other guys who did a nice job of crowding the basketball and keeping them out of the paint.
“I thought we did a good job on the boards at both ends.”
Jayrese Williams, the Division II Northwest District Player of the Year, was held to 7 points on 3 of 16 shooting.
The Indians had a pair of first half triples each from Bzovi and Brooks Gype to help them earn a 16 point halftime lead.
Gype began the second stanza with a long range bomb, then Brendan Britsch tacked on a pair of free throws, Bzovi’s three and two free throws from Levi Seiler pushed their lead to 24-8 at the 5:04 mark.
“Our ball movement was very good tonight,” said Burt. “Brooks and Carter both hit some early shots for us that helped us settle in offensively. I also thought that both of them did a good job of creating offense off of the dribble.”
The Blue Streaks’ only points of the quarter came on a pair of buckets in the final 2:25.
But before that, Wauseon added a pair of baskets via the dribble penetration from Austin Rotroff and Bzovi to lead by 20 with 2:40 left. Brent Hanson hit a jump shot for Sandusky and Keith Williams got a steal and score, making the margin 28-12 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Blue Streaks worked their way back and got to within 10 at 37-27 on Cavon Croom’s drive to the basket with under a minute left. However, the Indians were given a momentum boost to end the period on Gype’s deuce at the buzzer.
The Streaks got a triple from Croom 41 seconds into the fourth to cut it to 39-30, but they were pretty much held silent the rest of the way.
Gype would score back-to-back hoops, Rotroff added a dunk off an assist from Gype, and Seiler converted in the post which made it 47-30 with 4:19 to go.
“Sandusky made a good run at us,” said Burt. “They are physical and athletic. I thought our guys kept their composure and did a great job of making plays in the fourth quarter.”
Wauseon got five straight points from Owen Newlove, then a pair from the foul line from Bzovi, while Keijan Newell hit a triple for the Streaks to equal the final tally.
Gype led all scorers with 17 points, while both Bzovi and Rotroff finished with 12. Keith Williams and Hanson each scored 8 to lead the Streaks.
Wauseon also outrebounded Sandusky 35-22, including a 29-12 advantage on the defensive end.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010
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