MILLER CITY – In a highly anticipated matchup, a rematch of an overtime game played in mid-January, Wauseon made enough plays down the stretch to defeat Bryan 54-49 in what was a seesaw battle from start to finish Saturday in a Division II girls basketball sectional final held at Miller City.
The Indians held the lead for the early portion of the fourth quarter before 1 of 2 free throws each by Shallyn Miley and Brooke Lamberson gave the Golden Bears a 48-46 lead with roughly 3:30 remaining.
Autumn Pelok knotted it back up for Wauseon with a drive and score shortly after, but Haley Maxcy split a pair from the line for a 49-48 Bryan lead with 2:17 remaining.
With time running short, sophomore Kadence Carroll slipped a pass to an open Sydney Zirkle who scored and put the Indians back on top. On the next possession Carroll hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 52-49 with less than 30 seconds to play.
“She’s been out sick all week…battling the flu. And she comes back and has a really nice game for us. Plays hard. It’s great to have that talent coming back for the next couple of years,” said Wauseon coach Dan Seiler of Carroll.
Pelok’s two free throws finished off the five-point Wauseon win.
The first quarter saw five lead changes, with the Indians going ahead 12-11 at the quarter break on Marisa Seiler’s free throw.
Then in the second, a Sam Aeschliman 3-pointer and Zirkle’s putback hoop made it a six point margin. The Golden Bears scored the next five on Kloee Antigo’s drive to the hoop and a Lamberson trey, then following two Pelok free throws, Antigo knotted the score at 19 with a three-point play.
Wauseon briefly took the lead back thanks to a Chelsie Raabe jump shot with 3:03 to go before halftime. However, the Bears would close the half on a 12-2 run.
A Miley triple put them in front, then Antigo converted a fast break opportunity. When the Indians missed on a 1-and-1 chance, the Bears responded as Miley scored a drive to the hoop and Reese Grothaus’ triple put the Bears up 29-21 with 1:26 before half.
Grothaus hit a pair of free throws for Bryan, while Seiler stuck back her own miss at the other end, making the halftime margin 31-23.
Wauseon wasted little time getting back into the game in the third period. Zirkle, Pelok and Raabe scored on consecutive possessions to pull them within two 1:32 in.
“We switched defenses up,” said coach Seiler on what worked better after halftime. “Was trying to save a little energy towards the fourth quarter. We’ve been fizzling out in the fourth. Been running the girls a little bit too hard with our full-court press…so we tried a little (something) different. And we got lucky and it worked.”
However, Bryan was able to bump its lead back to six, 38-32, later in the period following a bucket from Grothaus and Antigo’s split at the line.
But then Wauseon got assertive on the offensive end.
First Carroll scored on a drive to the hoop, then Seiler followed with back-to-back drives through contact that knotted the score at 38 at the end of the quarter.
“I think we were attacking the rim better,” said coach Seiler of the second half. “And we had some nice dish passes when we did attack. We caught them standing a few times, and we were lucky enough to get to the rim and finish.”
Seiler led the Indians with 13 points, Pelok added 10 and Zirkle 9. Grothaus had a game-high 15 points for Bryan, while Miley kicked in 11.
Wauseon (19-4) now advances to the district where they will take on top-seed Napoleon Thursday at Paulding at 6:15 p.m. It will be a rematch of a Northwest Signal Holiday Classic game from before the new year, one that saw the Wildcats on the winning side 50-36.
“We’re excited,” said Seiler. “Hats off to Napoleon they’ve had a great year. But, you know we have to. What happens, happens. I can guarantee one thing, win or lose we’ll play as hard as we can. And we’re gonna battle as hard as we can. At the end of the day, with high school sports, that’s all you can ask.”
Napoleon rolled over Kenton 62-14 for their sectional championship.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010