BLUFFTON — A banked-in 3-pointer as time expired in the third period Tuesday all but deflated the Wapakoneta Redskins.
The triple put the Bluffton Pirates ahead by seven points, 36-29, entering the fourth period and proved to be enough of a cushion in the low-scoring affair.
Bluffton used the momentum from the buzzer-beater to more than double its margin by game’s end in a 57-41 win Tuesday over Wapakoneta in a non-league varsity boys basketball game in Pirate Gymnasium at Bluffton High School.
The buzzer-beater capped a third period in which Wapak saw a three-point halftime deficit turn into an eight-point disadvantage against the deliberate Pirates.
After the Redskins returned the lead to four points where it had been prior to Bluffton taking a then game-high eight-point lead, the 3-pointer off glass from the left wing had essentially undone the work Wapak just put in to reduce their deficit.
“When you’re trying so hard, for the kids to play defense and see a banked in three, that’s tough to overcome,” Wapak varsity coach Doug Selvey said.
Although the Redskins cut their deficit to five, 36-31, with the first basket of the fourth period on a deuce by Adam Henderson, Bluffton answered with five points to push its lead into double digits.
Wapak managed to reduce Bluffton’s lead to eight twice but did not come any closer the rest of the quarter.
“Any time you dig yourself into a hole, it’s a difficult thing to get yourself out of, especially against a team that’s going to slow stuff up,” Selvey said. “From my experience scouting them, I noticed that’s something they did. We tried to up the tempo a bit.”
The Redskins were hanging on in the ball game midway through the third period.
After a 3-pointer by Kodi Morgan, they trailed by one, 26-25, but the Pirates responded with a 3 of their own by Jordan Skilliter.
Bluffton then earned a basket, a foul and a free throw attempt.
Despite the free throw being missed, Selvey, showing frustration, called a timeout and got into his players.
“The frustration shows because I know these kids can do it,” the coach said. “When I don’t think they’re putting effort to get something, they need a wake-up call.”
A basket by Levi Kistler put the Pirates ahead eight, 33-25, before Wapak was able to cut Bluffton’s lead to four, 33-29, with two Alec Temple field goals.
And then the backbreaking banked-in 3 came, essentially undoing the work Wapak put in following the timeout.
Selvey said his team did not approach Tuesday’s game with the desire to fight for a win.
“We talk about mental toughness,” he said. “I don’t think we came out extremely mentally tough. We let ourselves get pushed around a little bit.”
Wapak led briefly in the first period, 11-7, with the help of three 3-pointers by Jarrett Koch.
Bluffton, however, ended the period on a 9-0 run to take a 16-11 lead into the second.
The Redskins outscored the Pirates 7-5 in a low-scoring second period.
Kistler led Bluffton in scoring Tuesday with 16 points, all from the field. Austin Bricker added 10, including seven in the fourth period.
Koch finished with 11 points, including the three first-period 3s.
Keaton Metz and Henderson each added eight points.
Wapak moved to 1-4 overall after Tuesday’s loss.
The Redskins will play their first Western Buckeye League game of the season Friday, as they will visit the Elida Bulldogs.
Wapak had its first scheduled WBL game on Dec. 13 postponed due to Kenton’s extended football season.
Wapakoneta had a comeback win in the junior varsity game Tuesday.
After trailing 16-5 after the period, by seven points, 24-17, at halftime and by three entering the final period, 33-30, the Redskins notched a 15-9 advantage in the fourth to win by three, 45-42.
A 2-point field goal by Cameron Lauck put Wapak ahead by one, 43-42, with just over 30 seconds to play.
The Redskins sealed the victory on the defensive end, forcing a missed shot. Aaron Huffman grabbed the rebound and sank two free throws with 1.1 seconds left.