BASKETBALL: 'Skins strike early

Like a boxer, the Wapakoneta Redskins hit with a flurry early to draw first blood and then landed stunning blows in the second half to dispatch of the Kalida Wildcats.

Wapakoneta hit with three quick jabs in the opening stanza en route to a 16-1 first quarter lead as they exchanged landing shots the rest of the way in a 50-39 victory in varsity girls action.

“Starting off the game quickly was one of the things we talked about this week because we had an afternoon game and we typically are not an afternoon team — so we really stressed getting off to a really good start,” Redskin varsity coach Rusty Allen said. “If you do that then your confidence builds and the girls did that, they started the game off well.”

On their first possession, guard Annie Henderson opened the scoring with a drive to the basket and a free throw after being fouled on the shot. Two possessions later, guard Nicole Brown hit a long-range bomb. On the inbounds, guard Tasha Helmstetter stole the ball under the basket and laid the ball in the basket and with less than two minutes off the clock, Wapak held an 8-0 lead.

Post Courtney Knippen took over hitting the Redskins next three buckets and Helmstetter closed out the quarter with a pair of free throws as the Wildcats struggled on both ends of the floor. Knippen ended the game with eight points and led the team with 11 caroms.

The first Wildcat field goal came at the 1:54 mark.

“We talked about it yesterday (Friday) and again when we got here — that the game was going to be about the start — and what I wanted to do was set the tone defensively early in the game,” Wildcat varsity coach Adam Huber said, “We set the tone, but it wasn’t a very good one for us.

“We kept saying, ‘Stay with it,’ but we just got punched too early and for us that is huge because we have trouble putting the ball in the basket some times,” he said.

After trading shots for most of the second quarter, the Redskins widened the lead to 29-13 at the break. After the break, the Wildcats trimmed the Redskins lead back to 31-19 with a chance to cut the gap to single digits — but Helmstetter hit a big trifecta.

“Tasha had a great game and looking at the book I was trying to figure out if we subbed for her much,” Allen said. “She just had a super game — offensively, defensively. She led the team in points but more importantly she did a nice job handling the point.”

Helmstetter led all scorers with 17 points, including seven in the third quarter. She also grabbed 10 rebounds, with six coming on the defensive end. She ended with seven assists and four steals.

Nine Wildcats hit the scoring column, with Kalida being led by Summer Holtkamp and Elizabeth Turnwald with six points each, and Julia Vandemark, Brandi Merschman and Jackie Gardner hitting for five each.

Henderson benefitted from a few of those assists from Helmstetter scoring 13 points, six coming on fast breaks when the Redskins broke Kalida’s full court press.

“She does what she is supposed to do,” Allen said. “We can have the all-league players and we can have the all-state players, but we stress that if you just do what you are supposed to do, be in position then you are going to benefit.

“She hustles and gets down the floor — she has the highest shooting percentage on the team,” he said. “That speaks well of her off-season work ethic and what she has contributed to this team so far.”

Brown also feed Henderson the ball and delivered the knockout punch with 5:41 left in the game. Brown, who scored nine points in the contest, hit a long-range bomb when Kalida had cut the lead back to 11, only to watch the Redskins stretch it back to 14.

Kalida finally cut the lead down to 10 in the final minute before Redskin Amy Hume hit a free throw for the final score.