Wauseon held down the Swanton offense in the second half, limiting the Bulldogs to five points for most of the way until time went against them, resulting in a 43-35 home victory for the Indians in Northwest Ohio Athletic League girls basketball Thursday.
It was the fourth straight league victory for Wauseon after falling to Delta in the opener.
“I said from day one, this league is as balanced as I can ever remember. Every night, if you don’t come and play you’re gonna get beat,” said Wauseon coach Dan Seiler. “And this game could have went either way. I strongly believe that every team in this league has a shot any night of the week. We were just fortunate enough to come out on top. Give Swanton a lot of credit, they played hard. Very well-coached, very disciplined team. Quite frankly they’re fun to watch. They do a lot of good things.”
For Swanton and coach Eric Oakes, the reason for the final result was simple, they did not hit enough makeable shots.
“We just didn’t get anything to go in the whole game,” said Oakes. “I don’t know how many threes we had, but I don’t think we had (more than) one or two. And that’s our game. So if we’re not hitting threes (we struggle). But other than that, if we hit some threes, it’s probably a different outcome for us. We had open looks, just couldn’t get them to go.
“We were really confident coming into the game. (I thought) we could get this one and stay in the league hunt. Maybe a share of it at some point if there’s an outside chance of that. Just didn’t hit the threes and didn’t hit the outside shots.”
The third quarter was the turning point for the Indians.
Up just three at halftime at 23-20, a Marisa Seiler three-pointer plus Sydney Zirkle’s putback basket gave Wauseon a 28-20 advantage at the 5:10 mark of the period. From there, the teams alternated trips to the free throw line with Morgan Pine and Jessica Dohm each splitting a pair for Swanton, and Chelsie Raabe doing the same for Wauseon. Then, Autumn Pelok’s corner jumper put the Indians ahead 31-22 with 3:13 to go.
They extended their lead to 12 following consecutive baskets from Hayley Meyer – with 1 of 2 free throws from Swanton’s Aricka Lutz in between. An Aricka hoop would get it to 35-25 after three quarters.
Scoring was at a premium in the early minutes of the fourth, with the Indians registering the only bucket in the first 4:39 of the period – a Zirkle deuce off an assist from Pelok – to help maintain a double-digit lead.
Two free throws each from Pine and Aricka Lutz brought the Dogs within eight at 37-29 with 2:49 to go, but they could get no closer over the remaining minutes.
The Indians built a seven point lead on two occasions in the first half, the last coming on Seiler’s three for a 17-10 lead with 5:11 left before halftime. However, Swanton responded with a 5-0 run, as 1 of 2 free throws from Pine and buckets by Averie Lutz and Aricka Lutz reduced the deficit to two.
Then, after two free throws by Zirkle, Kara Truckor banged in Swanton’s only three of the game – coming from the right corner – to make it a 19-18 game with 1:26 left in the half.
The Indians responded with a mini run of their own on an open basket inside for Zirkle and Kadence Carroll’s jumper, then two Frankie Nelson free throws for Swanton made the halftime margin 23-20.
Swanton’s defense was strong in the first half and for most of the game, particularly during the second quarter run in which two steals led to baskets at the other end by the Lutz twins.
“Defensively I was happy with the way we played them,” said Oakes. “The effort was awesome by the team. We always got girls diving around. They’re size hurt us a little bit. But that’s gonna happen, we’re just not really that big. It just comes down to making some buckets.”
Marisa Seiler led all scorers with 13 points. Zirkle tacked on 10 for the Indians (14-3, 4-1 NWOAL). Aricka Lutz marked 12 points for the Bulldogs (11-5, 2-3).
Wauseon’s joy after the game was not limited to the fact they had just won their fourth straight in league play, they also learned that Bryan had knocked off previously unbeaten Delta in overtime, creating the potential of a three-way tie for the NWOAL title.
“That’s pretty amazing in itself,” said coach Seiler on his team potentially sharing the league crown. “We had a really good chance at Delta (a 37-34 loss on Jan. 3). We didn’t finish well. And that’s a lot of the reason why we lost that game. And I think that’s something that we’ve gotten better at. We’re not obviously where we need to be. But we are definitely better at finishing.”
Having had to fight off the Golden Bears for an 11-point overtime victory just two weeks prior, and in light of the sheer competitiveness of the league, Seiler was not surprised they were able to upset Delta.
“It just goes to show how balanced this league is,” he said. “It’s so balanced and any team can win. I think homecourt advantage is huge right now. And that’s gonna be tough for a lot of teams to overcome I think.”
Wauseon welcomes Bowling Green tonight while Swanton plays host to Springfield.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010