Only trailing once in the ballgame – for a few minutes in the opening quarter – Archbold brought the fight to league-leading Delta in a 54-44 win in Northwest Ohio Athletic League girls basketball Thursday.
“We’ve went through a lot of adversity this year with injuries and sickness,” explained Archbold coach Brian Ziegler. “As well as other teams. But I think we’ve had more this year than we’ve had in the past. The girls have just kept fighting and kept competing. Look how far it’s gotten us. When they start believing, they can be pretty good.”
For Delta, their offense was just out of sync for most of the night.
“That’s what Archbold’s defense does to teams,” said Panther coach Ryan Ripke. “And I don’t care if they are 17-1 or if they’re 11-7, they’re still gonna play really good defense. I think it was one of those things where, we weren’t able to get into it (our offense). But we still had some girls that could really attack the basket. Abby Freeman did a great job of attacking. I thought Brooklyn Wymer did a really nice job of attacking as well. And we knew that coming in. We knew that we were gonna have to attack the basket like that, because they were probably going to switch on a lot of screens. And we were gonna have to work a little bit extra harder to get open.”
After a Reagan Rouleau putback gave Delta a 6-5 lead at the 3:51 mark of the first, the Blue Streaks responded with a 9-0 run to end the period. First Lily Krieger drilled a jumper from the elbow, then Naomi Rodriguez knocked down a three-pointer and Gabby Nafziger scored off a steal, followed by a Rodriguez bucket on an outlet pass to give the Streaks a 14-6 lead after one.
“I think the key in the game was that run right at the end of the first quarter,” admitted Ripke. “And we talked about that at half. We had to close out quarters better.”
The Streaks hit a pair of threes in that opening quarter, plus three more after halftime.
“It’s all confidence,” said Ziegler about his team having a good shooting night. “And I think this group’s getting it. Didn’t have it early on. The other thing is passing the ball. I thought we moved the ball very well and we were unselfish. We gave up a shot, probably to get an open three which was a little bit better.
“It was a good team win. Everybody contributed that went out there and played.”
The Panthers got five points from Freeman in a little over three minutes into the second stanza, helping them close the gap. They got it to one, 17-16, after a Brooklyn Green triple at the 4:32 mark.
The two squads continued to alternate baskets until a pair of free throws from Harley Phillips gave Archbold a 23-20 lead at the half.
Delta had outscored Archbold in the third period, but a Kylie Sauder three in the closing seconds made it 36-32 in favor of the Streaks. “That three by Sauder (at the end of the third), that hurt,” stated Ripke. “She’s a heck of a player. I don’t know how she started the year on JV. But she’s a heck of a player.”
Sauder started the fourth off with a made jumper to bump the Streaks’ lead to six. She finished with 11 points on the night, all of which came in the second half.
“She had a huge second half,” exclaimed Ziegler. “I told her at halftime, I was this close to taking her out. Then all of the sudden she gets going and made some athletic plays that no one else on the team could make.”
Delta followed with a Green jumper and three by Brooklyn Wymer. Sauder then converted a drive to the hoop, Braelyn Wymer split a pair from the foul line for Delta, Krieger scored inside and one of two free throws for Addison Moyer extended Archbold’s lead to 43-38 with 2:53 remaining.
The Streaks held a 48-44 lead at around the one-minute mark when a technical foul called on coach Ripke essentially sealed the game. In a timeout prior to Rodriguez heading to the line to shoot a one-and-one for Archbold, Ripke made a gesture that the officials deemed worthy of a technical. This also put the Streaks in a double-bonus situation, and Rodriguez hit four straight free throws.
However, the key on the night for the Streaks was defense. The Panthers had just one double-figure scorer, as Green notched 12 points.
“I thought we played as a team,” said Ziegler when talking about his defense. “When somebody got beat on a drive, there was somebody there to stop the drive and make them maybe alter their shot a little bit. Earlier on (this season) we weren’t doing that. Our teammates didn’t have trust in each other.
“Our defense has come a long way. We are playing a lot of young girls too. We expect our defense to be really good early on and it wasn’t. But, they kept working at it and they kept pushing themselves. You know what, we got a big win.”
The Panthers got back on the winning side Saturday at home, topping Clay 63-30. They even outscored the Eagles 26-0 in the fourth quarter. Braelyn Wymer had 16 points while Brooklyn Wymer notched 11.
Delta is still in the driver’s seat for another NWOAL title. With Evergreen’s loss to Wauseon, they are at least a game ahead of everyone else in the league in the loss column.
“We just need to keep getting better,” said Ripke on the focus of his team going forward. “I don’t know what the other teams did tonight. It’s one of those things where we just have to take care of what we can take care of.”
The Panthers (16-3, 4-1 NWOAL) will host Swanton this Thursday and Bryan on Saturday to round out league play. Archbold (12-7, 4-2) is at Ottawa-Glandorf Tuesday and Evergreen Thursday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010