LIMA — The waters could only be held back for so long.
Then the dam finally gave way and the wave came crashing down.
Underdogs all season long, the Wapakoneta Redskins made a run at an upset Friday night only to watch the Elida Bulldogs make their own run to pull out a 51-39 win in a Division II sectional final at Lima Senior High School.
The Redskins led for three quarters until Elida took a 30-29 lead on the first possession of the fourth. The Bulldogs then went on a 17-5 run to pull out to a 43-34 lead with 3:28 to play, seizing control of the game.
“A team like Elida, with so many weapons, we knew they were going to make a run,” Wapak coach Matt Bradley said. “I don’t think we’re holding-Elida-to-11-points good on defense. But our kids really battled tonight.”
“A lot of our sets involve patience,” Elida coach Denny Thompson said. “And we weren’t very patient to let our cutters get to where they needed to be. We got Reggie on some inside cuts in the second half because we were patient.”
The stats tell the story.
After shooting 0 for 11 in the first quarter and 2 for 19 in the first half, Elida was 10-of-13 in the second half.
University of Akron-bound Reggie McAdams scored a game-high 18 points for Elida. The 6-foot-6 senior missed his first six shot attempts before hitting 5-of-8 the rest of the way.
Sophomore guard Dakota Mathias missed his first five shots then knocked down his next two attempts and added an 8-of-8 performance at the free throw line to finish with 12 points.
“There was no panic, for me anyway, because I thought the shots we got were pretty good,” Denny Thompson said. “We just didn’t make them. And that’s not us.”
Senior guard Aric Thompson, the son of the Elida coach, missed his first three shots before burying three straight 3-pointers in the second half. He finished with 11 points.
“It’s pick your poison with them,” Bradley said. “They’re so hard to guard. I don’t want to say it was a matter of time before they hit shots. We just couldn’t match them offensively in the second half.”
Wapak jumped out to a 12-0 lead to start the game. Junior Travis Bertram scored seven points in the run. And classmate Jake Buzzard added the other five.
Elida closed to within five, 14-9, on an alley-oop dunk by Mathias from Aric Thompson in the second. But senior Kaleb Vondenhuevel scored on a putback and senior Andy Faller added a 3-pointer as the half wound down to lift Wapak to a 20-11 lead at the break.
The lead remained at nine points, 25-16, midway through the third quarter before Elida came alive.
Mathias buried a 19-footer from the left wing, Mathias added a basket, and junior Ebin Stratton added a three-point play to get the Bulldogs within a bucket, 25-23, with 2:28 left in the quarter.
Aric Thompson sank his first 3-pointer of the game with 32 seconds left in the third to make it a one-point game, 29-28.
Stratton gave Elida its first lead on an off-balance layup on the first play of the fourth. Senior Mike McDonald followed that up with a steal and layup to make it a 32-29 Elida lead with 7:24 to play.
“We’ve got weapons,” Denny Thompson said. “The big thing we talked about was, you’ve got to trust your teammates. The second half, I thought we did that.”
Wapak seemed to get new life when Buzzard buried a three from the top of the key to tie the game at 32-all.
But McAdams answered with a 3-pointer of his own from the left corner as the Bulldogs hit three triples in the next two minutes and pulled away to a 45-35 lead with 3:28 to play.
Redskins junior Alex Greve cut the gap to six. 45-39, with a three and a steal-and-layup with 2:42 remaining. But Wapak wouldn’t score again.
Free throw shooting was a big difference in the game. Elida was 22-for-30 for the game. Wapak, meanwhile, attempted just nine free throws, converting four.
The Redskins were plagued by foul trouble. Buzzard and Brandon Miller both reached the four-foul mark in the third quarter. Vondenhuevel also had four fouls. Buzzard fouled out with 3:28 left in the game.
“Elida was the aggressor and that’s why they got to the foul line,” Bradley said.
Buzzard, Bertram and Greve scored 10 points apiece for the Redskins. Vondenhuevel added six and Faller chipped in with three.
For Wapak, it was another close call — another game in which the Redskins were on the verge of an upset only to have it slip from their grasp.
“Hopefully when we look back we can take positives out of these games,” Bradley said. “But ultimately we expected to win tonight. ... We’ve got to figure out in the offseason, how do we get over that hump?”
The Redskins wrap up their season 8-14. Elida is 19-3 and will face Willard on Wednesday at Ohio Northern University.
In the other sectional final Friday, Bath topped Van Wert 74-73 in double overtime.
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