Andy Faller and Kaleb Vondenhuevel were in the seventh grade the last time the Wapakoneta Redskins varsity boys basketball team won a Western Buckeye League game at home.
Friday night, in the final home WBL games of their careers, the two seniors saw the five-year drought come to an end.
Wapak overcame a sluggish start and held off the Shawnee Indians for a 63-58 win.
The Redskins had not won a league game at Wapakoneta High School since defeating the Celina Bulldogs on February 23, 2007.
It was the third WBL win of the season for Wapak, which had not won more than two league games since the 2006-2007 season.
“It feels great to go out with a bang,” Faller said.
“We found a way to win,” Redskins coach Matt Bradley said. “We talk about changing the culture and starting something new here. It’s got to start somewhere. And we did something tonight we haven’t done in five years.
“We’re 3-5 in the league. We’ve got a chance to finish in the middle of the pack in the league, which is a tremendous leap from where we’ve been the past two years.”
After falling behind 10-2 early in the first quarter, Wapak bounced back. The Redskins closed out the quarter with a 13-4 run, taking a 15-14 lead on Alex Greve’s 18-footer from the corner at the buzzer.
“We don’t always, as a group, stick to the plan,” Shawnee coach Don Vogt said. “We got off to a good start, then we just got in a hurry and lost it and got behind because in the second quarter, for about three minutes, we didn’t play any defense whatsoever.”
In a portent of things to come, five different players scored for Wapak in the first-quarter run. Alec Temple got things started with a strong move in the post. Kyle Gibson knocked down a pair of free throws after drawing a foul in transition. Travis Bertram drove down the middle of the lane for a layup. Adam Henderson added two more free throws. And Bertram buried a three before Greve dropped in his jumper.
Wapak led the rest of the way. And all along the way, it was always someone different making the pivotal play or hitting the big shot. In all, nine players made their way into the box score.
“It was a great team win,” Bradley said. “I think it’s a sign we’re improving.
Jake Buzzard lifted the Redskins to a six-point lead, 24-18, by scoring nine points in the first 3:40 of the second quarter.
Wapak stretched its lead to 35-24 early in the third quarter on another spurt by Buzzard, who put back his own miss then added a 3-pointer from the left corner.
Shawnee responded with a 10-2 run to close to within three, 37-34, midway through the quarter.
But Wapak’s balance took over once again.
Greve drove the right side of the lane, Henderson sank a three from the right corner, Faller matched Henderson from the left corner, and suddenly it was a nine-point Redskin lead again, 45-36, with two minutes left in the quarter.
Shawnee had a chance to cut it to five in the final seconds of the quarter. But Temple handed out an emphatic blocked shot on Thomas Nolte’s runner in the lane as time expired with Wapak still holding a 45-38 lead.
The Indians regrouped and closed the gap to 49-48 with 5:10 left in the game.
But Brandon Miller hit a pair of free throws, Bertram knocked down back-to-back pull-up jumpers from the left elbow, Vondenhuevel got free behind the Indians’ press for a pair of easy layups, Miller came up with a steal, and Faller sank two more free throws as the Redskins held on for the win.
“They were more worried about the guards and I just kind of played back a little bit,” Vondenhuevel said. “Our guards were breaking the press pretty easy with the pass and the dribble. I just started breaking loose and a couple other guys were able to find me.”
Bertram and Buzzard tied for high-scoring honors for Wapak at 14 points apiece. Greve added 10 points.
Vondenhuevel (7 points), Faller (5), Henderson (5), Miller (4) and Temple (2) rounded out the Wapak scoring.
Miller pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Buzzard had seven boards.
“Obviously, the three big guns scored for us tonight,” Bradley said. “But I really felt like everybody came in tonight, knew their role and played their role. I can’t say enough about Kaleb Vondenhuevel coming off the bench. He could have pouted and felt sorry for himself. But he came out like a man possessed.”
Vondenhuevel had a strong game after being pulled from the starting lineup for Friday’s game.
“I was perfectly fine about not starting,” Vondenhuevel said. “I told Coach, ‘I care about the team. Put me where you want me to go and I’ll do what you want me to do.’”
Seth Rosenbauer led Shawnee with 16 points and nine boards. Freshman guard Elijah Pughsley added 15 points.
Pughsley scored six of his points on a pair of threes early in the first quarter. But Bradley scrapped his zone defense and stuck Faller one-on-one on Pughsley, who made just two more field goals the rest of the game.
“I challenged myself to guard him,” Faller said. “He’s a great player, even though he’s a freshman. But I’m not going to let him shoot.”
Shawnee won the junior varsity game, 40-37.
The Redskins had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds and send it to overtime after a lane violation call on Shawnee gave Wapak the ball back.
But Brandon Erb’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark and the Indians survived.