A game that early on seemed to be trending in favor of the hometown Swanton Bulldogs, changed near the end of the first quarter when the Wauseon Indians took charge with a stifling defense, leading to a 41-33 win in Northwest Ohio Athletic League girls basketball Tuesday.
“I think we mixed it up enough,” said Wauseon coach Dan Seiler of his team’s defense that held Swanton to four points in the third period. “We played a little man. We played a little zone. We played a little trap. You know they got two really nice guards. They’ve got nice ballplayers. They are a nice team.
“Luckily, we made the right decisions and the girls played hard.”
Swanton mentor Eric Oakes, while very complementary of the Indians’ defense, felt his squad’s offensive execution was lacking.
“We just didn’t run things through quite as well,” he said. “Kind of got to 1-on-1 (offense) a little bit more than running things through. But they (Wauseon) did a nice job defensively. We’ve just got to get better on the boards and get out and run. Especially if our shots aren’t falling. Then we are gonna be in big trouble if our shots aren’t falling. Then we’ve got to look to create some other ways (to score).”
With the margin at 10-6 following Jessica Dohm’s bucket for the Bulldogs at the 1:44 mark of the first quarter, the Indians responded with a 10-2 run that stretched into quarter number two.
Marisa Seiler stuck in a three-pointer for Wauseon, then Sam Aeschliman converted an Indian steal into two free throws, giving her squad a one-point lead at the quarter break. The Indians created many scoring chances off steals on this night, especially in the first half.
“Obviously you watch film and you see where their weaknesses are,” explained coach Seiler. “And I really thought their weakness was ball handling. We tried to exploit it as much as we could. And, you know, I think we tired them out. And I think their shot selection struggled from that.”
Seiler scored on a drive to the hoop to begin the second stanza, then after Averie Lutz’ basket for Swanton, Aeschliman and Seiler each buried threes for a 19-12 lead nearly three minutes in.
The Dogs would go on a run of their own before halftime.
They answered with seven straight points, including a Dohm triple to knot the score at 19 with 1:34 to go. A Sydney Zirkle putback off her own miss put Wauseon in front at the half.
Swanton also caught a bit of bad luck in the closing minutes of the half. Senior leader Bridget Harlett suffered an injury to her right leg, having to be helped off the court without being able to put weight on the leg. The timing of the injury puts the rest the season in doubt for Harlett.
“Obviously, just gonna be a huge loss for us,” said a dejected Oakes. “Just an unbelievable girl and a great attitude. We’ve got girls that can step up, and obviously Bridget will be around to cheer us on if she can’t get back at it.”
Zirkle outscored the Dogs herself in the third period with eight points. A Dohm basket inside cut it to 29-23 after three, but Swanton got no closer in the fourth.
Wauseon made 10 of 14 free throws in the final period to close it out.
“We feel that we’ve got enough good ball handlers,” said Seiler of his team having an aggressive mindset all night long. “And we go get the ball, we go meet the ball well. We want to go to the line, I’m not gonna kid you. I want to go to the line. I want to score. Then we can set up our trap and we can go from there.”
For Swanton, it can be argued that the loss of Harlett had an effect. Not only were they absent one of their better players, but also a vocal leader.
“A lot of the younger girls really look up to Bridget,” Oakes said. “And Bridget gets along with everybody. So when that happens to somebody like that, that really takes a toll. There was a lot of crying, even in the timeout after it happened. To get them calmed down. But, that stuff happens. It sucks for any high school athlete, or any athlete, to have to go through an injury.”
On Monday, both teams picked up non-league wins on the road. The Dogs topped Cardinal Stritch 39-16, while the Indians defeated Bowling Green 45-36.
Seiler paced Wauseon with 19 points in the win over the Bobcats.
Wauseon (8-11, 2-3 NWOAL) hosts Evergreen Thursday. Swanton (9-8, 2-3) travels to Liberty Center Thursday and hosts Otsego Saturday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010