In a game of runs it was Archbold who came out on top, outscoring Wauseon 15-5 over the final 6:10 for a 47-42 win in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League boys basketball opener Thursday.
“It was a great win,” said Archbold first-year head coach Joe Frank. “That’s a great team right there. They are gonna win a lot of games this year. We just feel fortunate to be able to survive and get out of here with the ‘W.’ There is a long way to go in the league, but this is a great start.”
“It’s huge. But, we’ve got a big road ahead of us,” said senior guard Jeron Williams, who led the Blue Streaks with 19 points. “It’s only the first league game and we’ve got a lot of good teams in the league this year. We are just gonna have to keep fighting. Do what we can to win ball games.”
Both teams played great defense, but it was the Streaks who took control down the stretch. With four players having four fouls, the Streaks employed a 2-3 zone to help.
“It wasn’t by design, it was out of necessity,” said Frank on using the zone in the fourth quarter. “We had some big, big, big foul trouble. And we were able to overcome that. We bought some time, and fortunately it worked out for us.”
Wauseon snatched the momentum late in the third quarter with a 7-0 run to end the period. First, Down 29-26 at the 2:07 mark. Levi Seiler responded for the Indians with a pair of free throws, then Trent Armstrong scored on a drive to the hoop, and a Seiler triple put them ahead 33-29 after three.
Archbold’s Austin Wiemken got a three-point play to open the third which brought his team within one, however, Seiler knocked down a pair of free throws at the other end. The Indians then got a drive and score from Armstrong to go up 37-32 with 6:22 remaining.
It was at that moment when the Streaks took control.
Williams hit triples on consecutive possessions, giving his team a lead they would not relinquish. “That’s the kind of kid he is,” said Frank of Williams’ performance. “He steps up in big time situations, and tonight he did the same thing.”
“We’re up five (in the fourth quarter), I thought Jeron hit two huge threes for them. Which a credit to him,” said Wauseon coach Chad Burt. “For 100 possessions, or however many possessions were in the game, I thought we executed a great defensive game plan. But there were about two or three possesions in that run that we kind of had breakdowns and they took advantage of it. Which is what a good team is gonna do.”
However, Burt was happy with his team’s defense throughout the entirety of the game, including holding them to just 18 points in the first half.
“We tried some different things defensively,” he said. “I thought overall, anytime you hold that team to 45, I think you’ll take your chances.
“A credit to them, they made some more shots in the second half. But I thought we played a very good defensive game. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t good enough.”
Armstrong knotted it back up at 38 with 1 of 2 from the foul line, then Elijah Zimmerman drilled a corner three for the Streaks and Wiemken layed one in the next time down the floor for a 43-38 lead with 3:06 left.
Wauseon could not get closer than four over the final minutes. Missing a total of four free throws did not help their cause.
Trailing 45-41 with less than a minute to go they forced an Archbold turnover. However, the ensuing possession turned up empty as the Streaks stole the ball.
“We just keep fighting. That’s what this team’s about,” said Williams of the Streaks grinding out the win. “We try the best we can to get a win. That’s all we care about is winning.”
It was not Archbold’s best shooting night, but they did manage eight threes in the contest, six of which came after halftime.
The Streaks clung to a single point lead, 10-9, after the opening quarter.
A Seiler spin to the bucket put the Indians ahead just over two minutes into the second quarter, and 1 of 2 free throws by Sean Brock extended it to 12-10 at the 4:55 mark.
But, the tide turned when a technical foul called on Seiler caused a five-point swing. Instead of the Indians getting the ball following a charge called on Archbold’s Elijah Zimmerman, the technical foul awarded the Streaks two shots and the ball. Williams hit the two freebies, plus Rigo Ramos added a triple for a three-point Blue Streak lead with 4:03 left in the half.
Seiler would score three straight for Wauseon to knot the score at 15. Then, the Streaks used up all the clock in the final minute and change, a possession ending with a Williams three for an 18-15 halftime lead.
Wiemken was the Streaks’ second leading scorer at 11 points. Seiler led all scorers with 20 points, while Armstrong added 14 for the Indians.
Archbold will likely stay ranked as the top team in the state in Division III after the win, a position they were voted into by the Ohio Associated Press when their first poll was announced. Wauseon came into the contest ranked fourth in Division II.
The loss snapped the Indians’ 37-game home winning streak. Their last defeat was Jan. 31, 2015 against Rossford. In league play, their last home blemish was in December of 2014 to Swanton.
Burt is hopeful his Indians will get past this loss with still six more league games to go.
“There is a lot of league season to go,” he said. “Unfortunately we play in a single round robin that we need some help right now. We talk a lot about, we can only take care of what we do. It’s gutcheck time.
“We’ve got tough kids. They know the expectations. I fully expect us to recover from that (tonight’s loss).”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010