There could have been shouts of jubilation filling the Redskins lockerroom.
Instead, silence. Silence and tears.
For 32 minutes Friday night, the Wapakoneta Redskins gave the undefeated and state-ranked Defiance Bulldogs all they could handle and then some.
They held a team that had been averaging 64 points a game to a season-low 44.
They kept the Bulldogs from even scoring a field goal in the second quarter.
They led and they led and they led.
Then Defiance senior Doug Herrett buried a 3-pointer with four seconds to play and classmate Anthony Kidston stole the subsequent inbounds pass to give the Bulldogs a 44-41 win.
“That had to be a great game to watch as a fan, both teams really competing hard, big shots both ways,” Wapak varsity coach Matt Bradley said.
Wapak had the ball with the scored tied at 41-41 and less than a minute to play. With 30 seconds left, junior Jake Buzzard got the ball in the low post and put up a turn-around fade-away jumper that Defiance center Shea Murray blocked. The Bulldogs got the loose ball to set up Herrett’s game winner.
“They did a good job of running a handoff play,” Bradley said. “We may have been a little late getting out there. But it’s not just one play, if we go back through.
“And, if you would have told me before the game we would hold Defiance to 20 points below their average, I would have thought, I’ll take it. If we would have held them to 24 points under, that would have been even better. But I thought our defensive effort was phenomenal.”
Defiance, ranked No. 8 in Division II in the most recent AP state poll, upped its record to 10-0 overall and 4-0 in the Western Buckeye League.
Wapak fell to 4-8, 1-3.
But it played better than that.
“Give Wapakoneta an awful lot of credit,” Defiance varsity coach Kirk Lehman said. “I think they deserved to win the basketball game. They played hard. They played determined. They guarded us very, very well.
“Fortunately for us, we made just enough plays to win the basketball game.”
The Redskins defense frustrated Defiance, forcing the Bulldogs to settle for outside jumpers.
Wapak held the Bulldogs to just 2-of-17 shooting in the first half. Defiance’s only field goals of the half were a pair of 3-pointers from Herrett and Kidston.
“I sound like a broken record,” Bradley said. “But I’ve been saying it all year. When we commit to defending, we’ve got a chance to be a pretty good team. And I think that showed tonight.”
Said Lehman, “They were doing a good job on the perimeter. And that’s where we stayed, on the perimeter. Because they were so well prepared, when you stay on the perimeter like that, you’re going to have to make shots with hands in your face and people guarding you like they were guarding us. And we didn’t do that.”
The Redskins scored the final seven points of the half to take an 18-11 lead into the lockerroom.
Travis Bertram hit a three from the right corner, his first basket of the game, to start the rally. Alex Greve drove baseline to make it 16-11. And Jake Buzzard tipped in an alley-oop pass on an inbounds play to give Wapak the seven-point edge at the break.
Kidston virtually willed the Bulldogs back into the game in the third quarter. He scored 10 points on three 3-pointers and a free throw.
After he hit a three at the buzzer to cut the Wapak lead to 31-28, he pumped his fist toward the Defiance crowd as he ran off the floor.
The Bulldogs made several attempts at runs on Wapak. And each time the Redskins responded.
“In the past, that would have been a breaking point for us,” Bradley said. “A team would go on an 8-0 run and blow the game open. We didn’t allow that to happen tonight.”
The lead changed hands five times in the fourth quarter. Buzzard gave Wapak a 41-38 lead with 1:10 to play.
But Herrett raced right down the floor and hit a three to tie it with 1:00 left and to set up the game winner.
“Hats off to Defiance’s two big seniors, Herrett and Kidston,” Bradley said. “They’ve been through the wars and hit big shots. Big players hit big shots in big moments. Those two carried them in the second half. It’s not surprising. The credit really goes to them.”
Kidston finished with a game-high 17 points. Herrett added 16.
Buzzard and Greve tied for scoring honors for Wapak, each dropping in 11. Bertram contributed nine points and Andy Faller chipped in with six.
Defiance won the junior varsity contest 43-36. Adam Henderson led Wapak with 11 points. Kodi Morgan added six. And Brandon Erb scored five.
Wapak returns to action Friday at home against the Ottawa-Glandorf Titans.