Trailing by 11 points late in the third quarter, Wauseon showed it was up to the challenge of a comeback. The Indians outscored the visiting Bryan Golden Bears 12-2 in the fourth quarter en route to a 38-35 win to open the Northwest Ohio Athletic League boys basketball slate Thursday.
Wauseon seemingly has Bryan’s number, as they have not lost to them since the regular season finale back in 2014.
However, the Bears were well-prepared for this contest by head coach Brandon Fisher. They had the Indians on the ropes for a good portion of the second half until Wauseon managed to rally in the fourth.
“Credit to coach Fisher and his staff, I thought they had an awesome game plan,” said Wauseon mentor Chad Burt. “They made shots. You know, sometimes that’s the easy answer. But I think their game plan in general was really good. They had really good offensive movement. Titus Rohrer is a bear under the bucket. He’s a big kid under the bucket that’s just really hard to guard. And what I thought showed for them tonight was Titus’s unselfishness.
“It was a heck of a game. I thought we made a few plays down the stretch and it was just enough.”
The win was Wauseon’s second in as many weeks over the Bears, also defeating them 45-33 in the final of the Grube Family Holiday Classic on Dec. 29 at Defiance.
The three-ball was a key factor for Bryan all night. They hit four in the first half and three in the second.
Braiden Showalter’s corner triple and Rohrer’s open basket in the post gave the Bears an 11-8 lead after one quarter.
In the second, a Jonas Tester 3-pointer for Wauseon knotted the score at 13 just under three minutes in. Rohrer answered with a floater at the other end for Bryan, then the Bears’ Evan Cox drilled a corner trey.
However, back-to-back hoops by Tester pulled the Indians within one with only 30 ticks left in the first half. Bryan took the clock down on its final possession, and Cox fired off a three from the left wing that found the bottom of the net as time expired, giving the visitors a 21-17 lead at the half.
Bryan came out strong in the third quarter as well.
Cox, who would lead the Bears in scoring at 12 points on the night, recorded a pair of threes in the first 1:35 of the third, forcing a Wauseon timeout.
Tester got the benefit of a bounce on his shot at the 4:24 mark, but an AJ Martinez triple for Bryan 17 seconds later extended their lead at 30-19. Then, 3 of 4 free throws for Rohrer around a Connar Penrod three for Wauseon kept the difference at 33-22 with 2:33 left in the period.
“The message basically, is there’s no such thing as an eight or a 10-point shot,” said Burt on what he told his team during that second half stretch. “Sometimes you look in the eyes of your guys (during a deficit) and I think the natural tendency is to make an eight or a 10-point shot — obviously that doesn’t exist. So the message was, basically, keep grinding. Try to get one stop at a time and try to get a score. Let’s get it to seven, get it to five, and give us a chance to make a few plays in the fourth quarter. That’s kind of what we did.”
The Indians got back within seven at the end of the third via two Tester free throws and a Penrod hoop against the defense of Rohrer.
That kick-started the Indians’ fourth quarter onslaught.
Isaac Wilson of Wauseon and Bryan’s Canon Lamberson each split a pair from the foul line in the first minute of the fourth. Penrod followed that up with a midrange jumper, then Tester tacked on a three-point play and drive and score which tied the game at 34 with 3:24 remaining.
Tester paced all scorers on the night with 22 points.
“I think (where) his game has improved is that he can score in a variety of ways now. You’ve got to guard him all over the court. He’s kind of that wiry strong. Doesn’t necessarily pass the eye test of being a strong kid, but he’s that wiry strong that he’s able to finish with contact at the rim. He’s done a great job of going to the offensive boards,” said Burt of Tester.
Almost two minutes after Tester’s last made bucket, Wauseon took over the lead when Penrod found Wilson inside for a score to make it 36-34.
Rohrer split a pair at the line and two Tester free throws closed out the game’s scoring.
After Tester, Penrod finished with 11 points for the Indians. Rohrer also had 11 to finish as Bryan’s second leading scorer.
The Indians added a 57-45 victory on the road at Defiance Saturday night. Penrod finished with 21 points, Wilson 14 and Tester 10.
Wauseon (9-1, 1-0 NWOAL) resumes league play this Friday by traveling to Liberty Center (4-6, 1-0). They then host Sylvania Northview on Saturday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010