The lights went down and the pump-up music started to blare over the speakers. In front of a packed crowd at Wapakoneta High School, the starting lineups were announced.
For six Redskins seniors, this would be their last game on their home court.
Jake Buzzard, Alex Greve, Brandon Miller. Travis Bertram, Kyle Gibson and Brandon Erb were about to make their last memories on the hardwood in the Redskin gym.
Kenton was in town and it was the final Western Buckeye League game of the season.
Despite a sluggish start for both teams, Wapakoneta exploded on offense in the fourth quarter to seal the victory over the visiting Wildcats, 52-41.
Wapakoneta scored 27 fourth-quarter points to more than double the offensive output from the first three quarters.
Wapakoneta varsity coach Matt Bradley said that fourth quarter all started with big plays from Erb.
To start the fourth quarter, Erb read a pass on a trap and stole the ball perfectly, and was fouled trying to go up for a breakaway layup.
“He hits two game-changing free throws right there,” Bradley said.
The next possession, Erb knocked down a 3-pointer. One of his three 3-pointers in the game.
“We left some shooters wide open and they hit some big shots, we had the score down to about four at one point, and they knocked down some big shots,” said Matt McCullough, Kenton varsity basketball coach. “Give them credit.”
Erb finished the game with 11 points on the night, electrifying the crowd more and more with each made 3-pointer.
“Huge shots for him, great for him to come in and hit those,” Bradley said.
The Redskins scored 29 points in the fourth quarter, a stark contrast from the first quarter’s six point performance. Bradley said his team started to calm down, and Kenton’s style of play helped fuel the offensive explosion.
“We were able to get to the line a lot in the fourth quarter because they were playing from behind,” Bradley said. “We were able to start running it a little more and pick up the pace, which in this game plays in our advantage.”
Kenton shot 8-of-14 from the line, while Wapakoneta seemed to live at the line, shooting 18-of-27 from the line.
“I think free throw shooting was the difference tonight,” McCullough said. “Our poor shooting hurt us, and they got to the line a lot more than we did. We have to do a better job of taking the ball to the basket and creating some contact.”
Bradley said his game plan going in was to put a lot of pressure on Kenton, and to prevent their post players get involved in the game too much.
“Going in we knew their post guys were their strength, we wanted to do what we could to not let them get into it,” Bradley said.
Despite Bradley’s efforts, Noah Terbush of Kenton was able to record a double-double in the post, hitting for 10 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
“He’s gotten better each game this year, he’s a hard matchup for teams because of his size, speed and strength,” McCullough said.
Alex Greve and Travis Bertram were able to each pick up 14 points against the stingy Wildcat defense.
“Those guys, we expect big things from them every night, and they delivered,” Bradley said. “I think Kenton did a really good job of collapsing in the post, it was hard for us to score inside and we were able to hits some jump shots down the stretch.”
Jake Buzzard was held to six points from the post position. Kodi Morgan had three points on the night and Brandon Miller and Alec Temple both had two points on free throws.
After talking about the game, Bradley was reflective on the season and career of the six seniors on the team.
“Those six guys have been with me since I took over (four years ago),” Bradley said. “When I took over, the team was coming off an 0-21 season and really kind of down in the dumps. They’ve bought into what we’ve been coaching them for four years. And now, it’s 13 wins later. This is the first time in a long time we’ve been above .500 in the league. I’m so proud of everything they’ve accomplished. They’ve worked really hard. I’m really going to miss them when it’s all said and done.”