LIMA – A season ago the Wauseon boys basketball team fell in the sectional final to a lower-seeded Van Wert team. And while it looked they could potentially suffer that same fate this season, up only 30-26 at the half against eighth-seeded Elida, a strong second half propelled them to a 62-40 win Friday night at Lima Senior High School.
The Indians outscored the Bulldogs 32-14 after halftime en route to the win.
“I thought we rebounded the ball a lot better in the second half,” said Wauseon coach Chad Burt. “I thought we communicated (better). Our on-court communication at times wasn’t great in the first half. It wasn’t any big adjustments, it was just trying to do what we do and do it better in the second half. I thought our kids responded very well.”
The Indians closed the third on an 11-2 run, bumping the difference to double digits.
Noah Tester scored off a pass from Sean Brock and Connar Penrod on an inbounds play. Then Noah Tester hit a 3-pointer off a kick-out from brother Jonas Tester to force a Bulldog timeout with the Indians up 44-31 at the 3:22 mark.
Wauseon hit seven threes for the game, with Noah Tester burying four of them.
“We shot the ball extremely well,” stated Burt. “That’s something that has kind of come and gone for us at times this year. I thought Noah knocked some shots down, and kind of gave everyone a little bit of confidence. Anytime you shoot it it makes everything look better. Then I thought we settled in offensively and finished better around the rim.”
Penrod put back his own miss out of the stoppage. Elida’s Devon Barnett hit a jumper to end the Wauseon run, but a Penrod floater staked the Indians to a 48-33 lead after three.
Wauseon was relentless on the boards in the second half.
To highlight this point, despite missing the corresponding free throws, Connar Penrod drew a foul on a fourth-chance opportunity with 48 seconds left.
“That’s something that we’ve prided ourselves on all year and the kids have bought in,” said Burt of his team’s offensive rebounding. “The unfortunate thing is, if you’re getting that many, that means you’re missing that many. Again, I thought our kids did a great job getting there and keeping some possessions alive.”
Points came sparingly for the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter, as the Indians finished them off with a 14-7 quarter.
However, back in the first quarter, Elida pulled ahead 17-14 by the end on a Riley Fricke triple and Isaac Manley’s elbow jumper.
Manley then extended their lead to five 15 seconds into the second with a hoop off a backdoor cut. Penrod responded with a floater for the Indians, Brock tied it with a three, and Jonas Tester’s trey gave Wauseon a 22-19 lead with 5:15 left in the half.
They would not trail again from that point on.
Noah Tester led all scorers with 24 points. Jonas Tester added 17 and Penrod 15.
Wauseon next plays Lima Shawnee, the top-ranked team in Division II, in a district semifinal at Ohio Northern University Wednesday at approximately 8 p.m.
“We’re gonna have our hands full that’s for sure,” said Burt of facing Shawnee. “Yeah, I think it (this win) should give us a lot of confidence. It doesn’t get much better than playing the number one team in the state. We’re gonna come in, prepare tomorrow morning. Obviously got a couple days next week. Again, they are as good as they come so we’re gonna have our hands full.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010