WAPAKONETA — Just when Travis Bertram was getting warmed up, it was time to cool down.
After scoring just two points in the first half, the Redskins’ leading scorer rallied Wapak with nine quick points to open the third quarter.
But when Bertram headed to the bench with his fourth foul midway through the period, the Redskins’ momentum — and one-point lead — vanished.
In his absence, the New Knoxville Rangers went on a 14-0 run and pulled away for a 55-38 rout in a non-league varsity boys basketball game Tuesday at Wapakoneta High School.
Bertram’s departure allowed Rangers coach Kort Fledderjohann to switch to a 2-3 zone defense. The Redskins struggled to create shots against the zone.
“That was really big,” Fledderjohann said. “With him in, we were kind of hesitant to play zone. When he left we could play zone and stop penetration more, which we struggled with in our man-to-man. It really affected our game plan and what we were able to do.”
Said Wapak coach Matt Bradley, “We were very passive against it (the zone). That’s on me as a coach. I did not have us prepared to go against that zone and it showed tonight.”
The Rangers came alive on the offensive end as well, hitting four 3-pointers in a span of 2:23.
Ten seconds after Bertram left, Lucas Leffel buried a three from the left corner. Ryan Lagenman added one from the top of the key, followed by Jake Allen from the left wing and Leffel again from the top of the key.
Just like that, New Knoxville had its biggest lead of the night, 41-30, heading into the fourth quarter.
“It’s no secret we haven’t been shooting the ball well this season,” Fledderjohann said. “We’ve got some good shooters. We just haven’t been able to piece it together and make that extra pass to get a guy open. In that streak of four, we made a few extra passes, hit open guys and stepped up and knocked them down.”
Wapak senior guard Andy Faller connected on a pair of threes to cut the lead to 45-38 midway through the fourth.
Bertram returned to the floor early in the fourth quarter but wouldn’t score again as the Rangers closed out the game with a 10-0 run.
“We settled for way too many jump shots in the second half,” Bradley said. “We think we’re a jump-shooting team. And we’ve got guys who can make them in stretches. But we’re so much better when we get the ball into the paint.”
Wapak was still playing without starting senior center Kaleb Vondenhuevel, who is underwent an emergency appendectomy last Monday.
Bradley said keeping Vondenhuevel out of the lineup was more of a precautionary move on his part with the undefeated and state-ranked Defiance Bulldogs (9-0) looming on Friday.
Allen led all scorers with 24 points. He routinely broke down the Wapak defense with penetration. On the final play of the first quarter he made a nifty crossover move then stepped back and buried a long jumper at the buzzer.
“It comes back to the song we’ve been singing all season, and that’s defense,” Bradley said. “We let Allen get loose several times.”
Leffel added 10 points for the Rangers. Ryan Lageman scored nine. And Andrew Arnett chipped in with six.
Bertram finished with a team-high 11 points on 5 of 9 (55.6 percent) from the floor. Jake Buzzard added nine points on 4 of 15 (26.7 percent) shooting.
Alex Greve also scored nine points, connecting on 4 of 10 (40 percent) from the floor. Faller added six points.
The win lifted New Knoxville to 5-6 on the season and dropped Wapak to 4-7.
New Knoxville 55,
Score by quarters:
1 2 3 4 - F
NK 14 10 17 14 - 55
Wapak 9 12 9 8 - 38
Andrew Arnett 2-1-6, Ryan Lageman 2-4-9, Jake Allen 9-4-24, Seth Kuck 0-3-3, Ben Kuck 0-1-1, Lucas Leffel 3-1-10, Shane Topp 1-0-2; Totals 17-14-55.
Alex Greve 4-0-9, Andy Faller 2-0-6, Jake Buzzard 4-0-9, Kyle Gibson 0-1-1, Alex Koch 0-0-0, Adam Henderson 0-0-0, Travis Bertram 5-0-11, Brandon Miller 0-0-0, Alec Temple 1-0-2; Totals 16-1-38.
3-pointers: NK — Arnett 1, Lageman 1, Allen 2, Leffel 3; W — Greve 1, Faller 2, Buzzard 1, Bertram 1.
Records: New Knoxville 5-6; Wapakoneta 4-7.
JV score: Wapakoneta 37-27.