Swanton had the perfect bounce back performance after suffering their first two losses of the season. Visiting Wauseon Friday night in Northwest Ohio Athletic League action, the Bulldog boys, who got a career performance from senior Cole Mitchey, ran away late with a 61-43 victory to get to 10-2 on the season and 1-1 in league play.
“I liked everything,” said Swanton coach Bruce Smith of his team’s performance. “I mean, they (Wauseon) got some people that can put the ball in the bucket. We held them to 43. I don’t think they scored more than two in the last four minutes. It was kind of getting away from them, obviously. But, we are a resilient bunch. In the two losses, we were down 12 with five minutes to go, came back to lead both games at one point. Couldn’t hold on obviously, but, this is a resilient group. We’re never quitting that’s for sure.”
Mitchey hit six 3-pointers on the night, and was eight of nine at the free throw line, finishing with 34 points to propel the Bulldogs to victory. The senior, who had to get five stitches above his left eye after a collision in the Ottawa Hills game four days prior, talked after the game about the significance of this performance and getting the Dogs back into the win column.
“It just feels amazing,” Mitchey said. “Especially because we’ve been 0-2 the last two games. And, just for a win like this, it’s a fresh start for our team.”
He was the catalyst for Swanton the entire night. To end the first half, Mitchey scored Swanton’s final six points — including four free throws — as they took a 30-22 edge into the break.
But Wauseon continued to compete, and it showed multiple times in the second half.
Jack Leatherman hit a pair of 3-pointers around one from Mitchey, then the Indians’ Trey Parsons converted a putback opportunity that got them within eight, 41-33, with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
However, Mitchey took over again as he got to the line and knocked down both attempts, then his corner triple put the Dogs up 46-33 going into the fourth.
“I think when he got knocked out (of the game) on Monday that probably did something to his psyche or something,” joked Smith of Mitchey. “When you come out and you hit your first two or three shots, then you think you can beat anybody and do anything. He was magnificient; he was an All-Ohio player tonight.”
Mitchey perhaps surprised even himself with how well he played against the Indians.
“We didn’t expect that. The game plan wasn’t to get it to me, but the shots were falling. It worked well so we kept doing it,” he said.
But the Indians were not done.
They went on an 8-3 run to begin the fourth as Leatherman went backdoor for a hoop, Tyson Rodriguez scored off the glass, Hayden Callicotte of Swanton stopped the momentum briefly with a three, but Landon Hines scored inside and Jude Armstrong turned a steal into points. This pulled the Indians within 49-41 with around five minutes to go.
The Dogs responded themselves when Mitchey threw down a dunk, and both Kayden Davis and Drew Smigelski scored inside to reclaim a 55-41 edge with only 2:30 remaining.
And, as coach Smith eluded to, Wauseon could only muster a pair of Rodriguez free throws over the final four minutes plus.
It was possibly one of, if not the best game the Dogs have played all year, one their coach would like for them to be able to emulate in the future.
“Absolutely,” Smith said on being able to bottle up this performance. “When you start 0-1 in the league, and you’re coming to one of the potential year-in and year-out favorites, and you get a win by 18. Very rewarding.”
The first half of the opening quarter was a back and forth affair. But then the Dogs got more into the flow of the game, finding their rhythm.
Mitchey scored 11 of his 34 points in the first quarter, including a trio of 3-pointers. His third triple of the stanza reclaimed the lead for the Dogs at 11-9 with 2:43 left.
Callicotte drilled a midrange jumper 32 seconds later, followed by Mitchey’s three-point play the old fashioned way for a 16-9 lead at the quarter break.
A lot of the game was played at an up-tempo pace that neither team minded; however, Swanton was able to be a bit more effective.
“When we score 61 that means something went right. Because we’re normally about 52-53 (points per game). But they kind of play the same style we do, if we got a transition opportunity we’ll take it. They are so well-coached. They’re patient, they got the ball to Hines when they have to, and he’s a tough cover. Fortunately we had more points than they did tonight,” explained Smith.
The Dogs outscored the Indians by a narrow 14-13 margin in the second quarter as they were able to maintain their distance.
After Mitchey, Callicotte was Swanton’s next highest scorer with nine points.
Leatherman had 15 points for the Indians while Hines kicked in 11.
The next night Wauseon hosted Sylvania Northview in non-league action, but let a lead slip away down the stretch as the visiting Wildcats won by a 60-51 final.
Wauseon (7-7, 1-1 NWOAL) travels to Evergreen (7-6, 1-1) this Friday and hosts Rossford on Saturday.
Swanton now begins a stretch of five straight home games, beginning with Fayette on Tuesday, Liberty Center Friday and Genoa on Saturday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.