ELIDA — The result may have been predictable.
How it happened, on the other hand, was anything but.
The Wapakoneta Redskins held the Western Buckeye League favorite Elida Bulldogs in check and mounted a late rally but came up just short in a 46-41 loss Friday at the Elida Fieldhouse.
“I think we’re getting close to getting over that proverbial hump,” Redskins varsity coach Matt Bradley said. “I think we realized tonight that we played a team that arguably is the best team in the WBL, preseason favorite to win it, going to be ranked in the state, has athletes and players at every spot.
“I think we realized tonight that when we compete hard for 32 minutes, the sky is the limit for this team.”
Wapak fell to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the WBL. Elida is 5-0 and 1-0.
After scoring just 22 points through the first 27 minutes of the game, the Redskins went on a 16-2 run to draw within five, 43-38, with 1:30 to play.
Wapak had a chance to draw within a score. But Elida’s Ebin Stratton forced a turnover on Wapak’s next possession and Dakota Mathias connected on 3-of-4 free throw attempts in the final 34 seconds to secure the win.
“It was a total lack of focus,” Elida varsity coach Denny Thompson said. “You see that happen, a team gets a lead and then they relax. It’s hard to get it back. ...
“Give Wapak credit. They did not quit.”
Wapak’s defense shut down the vaunted Bulldogs’ attack and held University of Akron-bound forward Reggie McAdams to just four points.
“We really preached at them all week — and by ‘preached’ I mean ‘stood on a soapbox and yelled at them’ — that they’ve got to compete on the defensive end,” Bradley said. “And we certainly did that tonight. I couldn’t tell you the last time when Reggie only scored four points in a game.”
“I can’t remember him scoring four points before,” Thompson said.
While the Redskins have relied primarily on man-to-man defense, with an occasional 1-3-1 zone thrown in, Bradley used a spread-out 2-3 zone heavily Friday night.
“We’ve been very predictable the first two or three games, so we wanted to mix things up,” Bradley said. “But with them it’s so difficult because they’ve got so many weapons.”
Said Thompson, “What it did was it kept us from being somewhat aggressive. We stood and looked at the zone for awhile. Generally that’s what you want the other team to do. So we fell right into that.”
But the Redskins struggled offensively, shooting just 14-of-48 (29.2 percent) from the floor. They were 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) on 3-pointers.
“I thought we got the shots that we wanted,” Bradley said. “We just didn’t make them.”
The first half was a defensive duel with Elida taking a 22-14 lead into the lockerroom. The Bulldogs used a 7-0 run in the middle part of the second quarter to put some space between themselves and the Redskins.
Neither team shot the ball well in the first two quarters. Wapak was 6-for-25 (24 percent) in the first half and Elida was 9-of-21 (42.9 percent).
Mathias hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open the third quarter, giving the Bulldogs a 28-14 lead.
“We always talk about winning the first three minutes of the third quarter,” Bradley said. “They did and they won the game.”
Wapak’s lone field goal of the quarter was Travis Bertram’s baseline runner with 19 seconds left.
Bertram, who had trudged his way through a 2-for-10 shooting performance through three quarters, suddenly caught fire in the fourth.
He connected on three 3-pointers in a 97-second span and added a layup off a turnover to cut Elida’s lead to 43-38 with 1:30 left.
Alex Greve and Jake Buzzard each added five points in the fourth quarter.
Bertram led all scorers with 17 points and was the only Redskin in double figures. Greve added nine and Buzzard chipped in eight.
Bertram and Buzzard grabbed seven rebounds apiece.
Mathias led Elida with 16 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Stratton finished with eight points.
Shawnee transfer Cory Royster did not start for Elida after he missed a practice earlier in the week for disciplinary reasons. He came off the bench in the second quarter and finished with five points and seven rebounds.
Bradley missed two days of practice this week to be with his wife, Jeni, after the birth of their third daughter.
“A lot of credit goes to my assistant coaches,” Bradley said. “They had them ready to go.”
The Redskins play at 6:30 tonight at St. Henry.
In the junior varsity contest, Elida held off the Redskins 34-32 in overtime.
Wapak rallied from a 27-22 fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game at 29-29 on a nice inside dish from Adam Henderson to Kodi Morgan.
After the Redskins forced an Elida miss on the other end, Zach Schmerge launched a half-court shot that was off the mark at the buzzer.
Elida’s Louis Gray hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession of overtime. Wapak had the ball down 34-32 with five seconds to play but turned it over and Elida ran out the clock.