In what constituted as a game of runs, Wauseon’s 10-0 burst to begin the third quarter ended up giving them the momentum they needed after trailing at the half. They would finish off Swanton 47-38 for a road victory in Northwest Ohio Athletic League boys basketball Friday night.
“We talked all week that this was going to be a battle. They were gonna be excited to play us,” said Wauseon coach Chad Burt, who was not all pleased with how his team started the game. “They’ve got very athletic kids. They run good stuff; they have shot-makers. It really wasn’t a surprise how the game played out. We were fortunate down the stretch, that we made a few more shots. And the reality is, they missed some shots or we could be looking at a different outcome. I think you got to give them a lot of credit. But we got to be a little better than that.”
Swanton coach Joel Visser – whose team held a three-point edge at the half – is still searching for answers as his team has now dropped seven of its last eight games.
“We played well in the first half because we knocked down some shots. But what I was most disappointed about was, we just got outphysicaled and we got manhandled in the paint in the second half. They shot 14 free throws to our three. That’s just a recipe for disaster. I certainly thought we should have shot some more free throws, but we didn’t. That’s how it goes some nights,” said Visser.
Wauseon had the first big run of the game in the first quarter, closing the period on a 6-0 run.
Isaac Wilson broke a 9-9 tie with a basket in the paint at the 2:39 mark, and that would become a reoccurring incident. The Indians’ reserve big man finished with 11 points on 4 of 5 shooting.
“He’s a very good athlete, and he’s the ultimate team player,” said Burt of Wilson. “He’s given us great things at both ends of the floor. He’s keeping balls alive, you see him diving on the floor. Anyone who watches Wauseon football will tell you, that’s just who he is too. He flies around, really with no regard to his own body.”
Connar Penrod added a basket inside for the Indians, then Noah Tester’s putback hoop made it a 15-9 difference after one.
The three-ball was the Bulldogs’ saving grace in the first half where they hit on five from long range – including four from Andrew Thornton.
However, it was a three-point play the old fashioned way that began a 9-2 run over the first four plus minutes of the second quarter.
Sam Betz scored off a steal and tacked on a free throw for the Dogs, but Tyson Britsch answered with a deuce for Wauseon. A Justyn Bartlett drive and score for Swanton, Thornton’s putback, and an off-balance shot from Hayden Callicotte put the Dogs in front 18-17 with 3:18 before half.
Although Tester briefly gave the Indians the lead back via a drive to the hoop, Thornton responded with back-to-back triples which gave the Dogs a five-point lead with 1:31 remaining.
The junior led all Bulldog scorers with 14 points; however, he was held scoreless in the second half after some adjustments from Wauseon.
“We made some offensive adjustments to free him up. Second half, right now we’ve got to be able to get him (a break). Someone’s got to come off the bench and give (us) a couple quality minutes so we can actually give him a rest. But we’re not getting contributions off the bench like we need to to be a good basketball team,” said Visser on Thornton’s night.
Wauseon scored once more down the stretch, a Wilson basket inside at the 1:02 mark, making the halftime margin 24-21.
The Indians answered the call to begin the second half, beginning with Wilson’s three-point play 38 seconds in to tie the score. Less than a minute later, Tester drilled a three off an inbounds play to give the Indians the lead back.
He would score the next three points as well, the last coming on a deuce at the 2:28 mark of the third, to finish off the 10-0 run and give his team a 31-24 advantage.
They maintained their distance until one last Swanton charge in the fourth quarter.
Down 37-29, Betz’ bucket inside pulled the Dogs within six. Thornton – the starting quarterback on Swanton’s football team last fall – then did his best Patrick Mahomes impression with a deep toss to Callicotte who finished it off at the other end. After one of two free throws from Wilson, a Vance basket pulled the Dogs within 38-35 with just under five minutes remaining.
But, Wauseon closed it out with a flurry of their own.
A Penrod turnaround jumper, Sean Brock’s tip in off a Penrod miss, and Wilson’s split from the foul line bumped the lead back to eight, 43-35, with 3:01 left.
Tester led the Indians with 15 points while Penrod added 12. Penrod was also key in shutting down Thornton in the second half, according to Burt.
“Obviously Connar’s strength is his athleticism,” said the Indians’ coach. “I think at both ends of the floor. He made some buckets for us. It’s a tough matchup. They have two 6’3” kids (Thornton and Vance) that can really attack and get to the rim. And shoot the threes. They definitely pose some problems. We just kind of tweaked some things at halftime and we challenged Connar.”
After Thornton, Vance had 11 points to pace the Bulldogs (7-9, 1-3 NWOAL).
The Indians added a 66-56 home win over Springfield of the Northern Lakes League on Saturday.
Brock had a huge night, scoring 27 points on 47 percent (10 for 21) shooting. Penrod tacked on 14 points and Tester 11.
Bo Bucher had 16 for Springfield (8-8).
Wauseon (13-5, 4-1) hosts Evergreen this Friday in a pivotal league matchup. Swanton is at Clay (4-13) Wednesday and Liberty Center (9-8, 1-3) Friday in NWOAL play.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010