Wapakoneta’s numerous chances to seal the game against Minster went awry, allowing the patient Wildcats to hang around and eventually surpass the Redskins 54-49 in overtime on Saturday night.
Minster scored the final seven points of the game to get back to .500 on the season.
“It’s a little bit of perseverance,” Minster head coach Mike Lee said. “They didn’t panic and they executed when they needed to execute...It’s a testament to gutting it out for as long as we did.”
Minster junior guard Adam Niemeyer hit what proved to be the game-winning three-pointer from just right of the top of the key with 58 seconds left in overtime to give Minster a one-point lead.
Two missed free throws, two missed shots and a turnover later Wapakoneta (4-10) exited the court with another close loss in a season of near-misses and disappointments at home. The Redskins fell to 1-6 on their home floor.
“We had a ton of chances,” Wapakoneta head coach Matt Bradley said. “I’m proud of our effort. I was proud of our effort to get to the free throw line because we only got there two times (on Friday) night. But give credit to Minster for taking advantage of their opportunities.”
The lead changed hands seven times in an exciting fourth quarter that ended tied at 47-47.
Wapakoneta’s best chance to end things in its favor came in the closing seconds of regulation. Redskin guard Andy Faller drove into the lane and had his running seven-footer miss only to have Kaleb Vondenheuvel and Jake Buzzard to miss putbacks from point-blank range as the buzzer sounded to end regulation.
“We dodged a proverbial bullet at the end of regulation,” Minster head coach Mike Lee said. “Not only did they have one clean look, they had two extra offensive rebound stickbacks that didn’t go in.”
It was hard to pinpoint the moment Wapapkoneta seemed most assured of a win.
There were the nine free throw attempts in the fourth quarter and overtime period, the three point-blank shots in the game’s final three seconds.
The Redskins struggled at the free throw line (13-of-25 on the night and two missed while down one point with a minute left in overtime) and those missed trio of close game-winning shots at the end of regulation.
“It was a just a bunch of little things that we have got to get cleaned up,” Bradley said.
Niemeyer scored 24 points for Minster (7-7), the most important coming from his big shot in the overtime that capped a night that included a 5-of-8 performance from beyond the three-point line. Niemeyer reached double-digits for the fourth straight game and has emerged as the Wildcats’ best scoring threat.
“He’s seeing the floor much better,” Lee said. “Not that he wasn’t seeing it well before, but in key situations, he’s doing a great job.”
Wapakoneta’s Travis Bertram paced the Redskins with 16 points. Jake Buzzard had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Alex Greve scored 12 points and was the exception to Wapkakoneta’s poor showing at the charity stripe by sinking 7-of-9 free tosses.
If the Wildcats didn’t burn up the nets with just 37 percent shooting from the floor, they also didn’t hand Wapakoneta anything. The Wildcats turned the ball over just three times in 36 minutes of play and swung the ball around on the perimeter patiently until something opened up.
Wapakoneta committed 16 turnovers in what was largely a half-court battle after a fast-paced first period.
Wapakoneta jumped out early, beating Minster back down the court time after time to build an 18-15 lead after one period, with 7-for-13 shooting leading to an unexpected Redskin burst following a night they scored only 31 points against Ottawa-Glandorf.
Neither coach was comfortable with that up-and-down pace. Both got their way as things slowed considerably for the next four quarters of play.
Minster stopped the bleeding by briefly going zone before Lee challenged his team to simply play better man-to-man defense in the second half.
“We resorted to going to a zone defense. We don’t do that typically. When they still got clean looks in the zone, we just challenged the kids at halftime that we’ve been a man-based team and we needed to get after it defensively. I think we played with a little bit more energy and heart in the second half.”
Wapakoneta played solid defense all night long, Bradley said.
“Our goal is to keep the opponent in the 40s and we did that in regulation,” Bradley said.
The Redskins opened up an eight-point lead late in the second quarter at 29-21 when Adam Henderson drained a three-pointer with two and a half minutes left in the first half. The Redskins led 31-25 at the half.
Wapakoneta held the lead for all of the third quarter and led 39-37 heading into the fourth.
Minster grabbed its first lead since the first quarter when Minster sophomore Ethan Wolf feathered in a short jumper from the left wing early in the fourth to put Minster up 40-39.