The Van Wert Cougars started out so fast they nearly left skid marks on the floor of the Wapakoneta High School gymnasium.
Van Wert raced out to an early 24-7 lead, withstood Wapak’s lone rally, and posted a 59-44 win in a Western Buckeye League varsity boys basketball game Friday.
The Cougars hit five of their first six shots and finished the quarter 10-of-15 from the floor, 3-of-3 from three-point range.
“All the credit goes to Van Wert,” Wapak varsity coach Matt Bradley said. “They came out and hit shots in the first quarter. I thought we had some really good looks in the first quarter too. We didn’t make them and they made theirs.”
Senior Jacob Myers scored 13 points in the first to pace the Cougars. But he would only score four points the rest of the game, all from the free-throw line.
“I thought Jake really played within himself, shared the ball with his teammates,” Cougars varsity coach Dave Froelich said. “They were playing him pretty tough and trying to guard him and deny him everything. He just stayed within what was best for our team.”
Junior Travis Bertram drew the assignment to defend Myers. Wapak’s leading scorer this season, Bertram scored just seven points, all in the game’s final 1:30.
“I do think Travis Bertram is a guy tonight that is probably, to an outsider might say, ‘What’s going on with Travis? He only scored seven points’,” Bradley said. “I thought he really did a good job tonight. He was defending Myers tonight, chasing him around. Travis didn’t force shots.
“So I was really proud of Travis tonight. Even though he didn’t score until toward the end, I thought he played a really, really good game for us.”
Junior Jake Buzzard led Wapak with 13 points. His 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter cut the lead to 24-10 and started a 14-4 rally that got the Redskins within seven, 28-21, with 3:10 left in the half.
Freshman Adam Henderson fueled the run with back-to-back 3-pointers from the right corner.
“When they (Wapak) hit one, they like to go, like two or three in a row,” Froelich said. “Quite honestly, I haven’t seen Henderson play all that much. He’s a nice player and obviously a comfortable shooter. ...
“That was the only time I thought we got a little quick offensively, in terms of our shot selection. I thought we rushed some things and took a few bad shots. We increased our pressure a little bit, crawled up in him a little bit and made him turn, and got things back under control.”
The Cougars scored the final seven points of the half to take a 35-21 lead at the break. Then they held Wapak to just four third-quarter points to take their biggest lead of the game, 47-25, heading into the fourth quarter.
Van Wert scored several baskets on open back-side looks.
“They do a great job of running their shooters off of double screens and the back-side guy slips,” Bradley said. “We were prepared for it. But doing it on the practice floor and then getting out Friday night in front of everybody — I really didn’t think we played that badly.
“They hit shots and we didn’t early. We got down to seven in the second quarter. Then we just couldn’t get that crucial stop or rebound like we needed to. The kids battled hard. They didn’t quit. I’m really proud of their effort tonight.”
Van Wert upped its record to 12-4 overall and 5-2 in the WBL. Wapak is 5-12, 2-5 WBL.
The Redskins will return to action Friday at home against the Shawnee Indians.
Van Wert won the junior varsity contest 52-31.
The Cougars jumped out to an 11-0 lead, shutting the Redskins out in the first quarter, and never looked back.
Wapak cut it to 12, 34-22, by the end of the third quarter. But Van Wert shot 9-of-11 from the free throw line in the fourth to seal the win.
Freshman Kodi Morgan led Wapak with nine points. Joel Hegemier, Jake Bruns, Zach Schmerge, Kaleb Miller and Will Hinegardner scored four points apiece.