Wauseon was the second team in as many weeks to fall victim to a Patrick Henry team looking to play spoiler. The Patriots clamped down defensively on the Indians in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 14-3 in the period to pick up a 38-37 come-from-behind win on the road in Northwest Ohio Athletic League girls basketball Thursday.
PH did the same thing to Bryan the week prior, topping the Golden Bears 44-35 to knock them out of a tie with Wauseon at the top of the league. Unfortunately for the Indians, their defeat put them at 5-2 in the NWOAL, allowing Bryan and also Archbold to finish in a three-way tie for the championship.
“We get a share of it either way,” said Wauseon coach Dan Seiler on his team winning the league for the first time since 2010. “Would we have liked to win it outright? Definitely. But, with the league as balanced as it is, I don’t really feel terrible about it. To be where we’re at, nobody gave us any chance in the world to be in this course. And the girls worked hard. They played hard. They did a lot of good things. I’m pretty proud of our season.
“We’ve come a long ways. Two years ago we won three games. Last year we got 12. This year, we’re what 18. That’s not bad. We’re headed in the right direction, we’re just not where we need to be yet.”
Wauseon went cold in the final quarter, while on the other end Patrick Henry hit a trio of 3-pointers to help get back into it and eventually put them over the top.
Rachel Nickels and Kayla Prigge each knocked down treys in the first 1:33 of the fourth, pulling the Patriots within four at 34-30. Their next points came with 4:44 to go on a pair of Mckenzie Vance free throws, then Audrey Sonnenberg’s corner triple gave them a 35-34 lead.
They extended the margin to four on a combined 3 of 4 free throws from Prigge and Vance. With under three minutes to play, the Indians and the home crowd, could sense an outright championship slipping away.
“They just really picked up their defense. And I thought we got really complacent,” said Seiler of Patrick Henry. “We just didn’t attack the rim. We didn’t play our game, and give a lot of credit to Patrick Henry. They pushed us out further than what we wanted to be. And we didn’t take advantage of a lot of the opportunities that we had.”
Wauseon got back within a deuce at the 2:32 mark on Sydney Zirkle’s basket with 2:32 left, but she couldn’t add the free throw for a three-point play.
In the final minute, Hayley Meyer split from the free throw line for Wauseon, making it a 38-37 game with five seconds remaining. They were able to strip the ball loose from Patrick Henry on an ensuing inbound play, but couldn’t manage a shot before time expired.
“We got down 10, and coming out in the second half, we still weren’t scoring. They could have buried us,” said Patriot coach Justin Sonnenberg. “Our defense gave us an opportunity in the fourth quarter and we made some shots. We kept pushing the ball. We made the plays down the stretch that we needed to.”
Zirkle scored 7 of her game-high 15 points in the opening quarter, helping the Indians jump out to a 17-11 lead. Marisa Seiler also tallied seven points in the frame.
They would push the margin to double digits by halftime.
The Indians got the lead above 10 at 22-11, when Autumn Pelok scored through contact at the 6:05 mark. However, just 13 seconds later Sonnenberg converted from long range, getting it back down to eight. Sam Aeschliman responded with a triple at the other end, then Seiler went 1 of 2 at the line for a 26-14 lead with just under four minutes to go until halftime.
Seiler, who scored 12 for the game, was limited to just two points after half. Zirkle had nine in the first half; however, baskets for her came much tougher in the second.
PH’s switching of defenses played a factor as well.
“I think our zone defense was good. It helped us out tonight,” said coach Sonnenberg. “When our girls are aggressive and get after it, I do feel that’s when we are at our best. Our man-to-man defense was good tonight when we got after it and doubled. It kind of took them out of what they wanted to do and kept them out of rhythm. And then, we were able to finally make some shots at the other end.”
The Patriots got four points from Sonnenberg down the stretch, with two free throws from Zirkle in between, making the difference 28-18 at the half.
Each team scored six in the third period, keeping the margin at 10 entering the fourth.
Prigge finished with 14 points to lead PH, while Vance added 12.
Wauseon (18-4) is now off until this coming Saturday when they take on Bryan in a Division II sectional final at Miller City at approximately 8 p.m.
Coach Seiler hopes his team can turn the page from this one headed into tournament.
“It kind of reminded me of the Delta game (a three-point loss on Jan. 3),” he said. “We just didn’t finish well at Delta. And we didn’t finish well here either. That’s the way it is.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010