BOWLING GREEN – Wauseon’s boys basketball season ended in a flash Wednesday night in the Division II district semifinal at the Stroh Center on the campus of Bowling Green State University. They jumped out to a comfortable 25-16 halftime lead behind 15 points from Austin Rotroff, but with a stingy second half defensive effort from Toledo Rogers, they limited the Indians to 15 points total and came away with the 45-40 victory.
“They hit a couple shots early in the second half and I thought they got playing at a little bit more their speed. It got us back on our heels,” said head coach Chad Burt. “Sometimes it’s as simple as I think they made some shots early and we had some good looks (that didn’t go in). Obviously, the foul line wasn’t real kind to us.”
In fact, the Indians finished 6 for 16 at the charity stripe. But what also did not help Wauseon was that Christian Smith of Rogers scored 9 of his 12 points in the second half to lead the Rams from behind.
Smith got the Rams going in the third quarter with a triple, then Cameron Copeland who led the Rams in scoring with 13, added a bucket on a fastbreak to reduce the Indian lead to 25-21 just 1:15 in.
“I think the three he hit to start the third at the top of the key got him settled in a little bit,” said Burt of Smith. “I thought that was a big shot for him confidence wise.”
Rotroff bumped the Indian lead back to seven with a basket inside and one of two free throws, however, a pair of buckets by Smith made the difference three.
Wauseon got its last points from Rotroff outside of one of two free throws in the fourth quarter when the sophomore scored off his own miss at the 4:12 mark to make it 30-25.
“They made a little defensive switch. They put a little more athletic guy on him,” said Burt of the Rams second half defense on Rotroff. “It gave us a hard time getting the ball to him.
“It is just hard to get comfortable against their defense’s because they change them up and they are so athletic and quick.”
Rogers’ Taquarius Belcher then hit a triple and Smith scored with his left hand to knot the score with 3:13 left in the third. Carter Bzovi’s score underneath the basket with 2:51 remaining allowed the Indians to regain the lead at 32-30 heading into the fourth.
Wauseon’s Brooks Gype opened the final period with what looked to be a three but was ruled a long deuce, but Rogers grabbed the lead after Smith pegged a shot from the elbow and also a three. Their advantage was 37-34 at the 3:46 mark thanks to a jump shot from Copeland.
The Indians showed some life and it looked as though they may be able to swing the momentum back in their favor as Bzovi split a pair of free throws, then snagged the rebound on his miss for a putback to knot the score at 37 with 3:07 to go.
However, Dru Pettigrew put the momentum back on the Rams side with a three which put them ahead for good.
The Indians kept coming up empty on the offensive end while Copeland added a floater, Belcher split a pair from the foul line, and Rea’Sean Henderson’s dunk sealed the deal as that pushed their lead to 45-37 with just 31 ticks left.
In the first half, particularly the opening frame, contributions from Bzovi and Rotroff helped the Indians grab the early lead.
Bzovi’s three from the corner broke a tie at five, then Rotroff’s putback extended the Indian lead, and Bzovi converted another triple around a three by Copeland to make it 13-8 with 2:49 left in the frame.
Back-to-back slam dunks by Rotroff made it a nine-point Wauseon lead after one.
The Indians got four more points from Rotroff in the second quarter, as well as a bucket by Bzovi and Luke Rychener’s tip in to also lead by nine at the half.
Rotroff had 21 and Bzovi added 15 for the top two scoring efforts by either team. Copeland led Rogers with 13 points, Smith 12 and Belcher 11.
Wauseon finishes the season at 20-4.
“We had a heck of a season,” stated Burt. “20 wins, sectional and league champs. It is hard to put that into perspective after a tough loss like that but there will be a day when they and we reflect back on it very fondly. We graduated seven seniors. (They’ve given) great contributions to our program.”
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010