The Wapakoneta Redskins managed a comeback win Tuesday over the state-ranked Minster Wildcats in their final home game of the regular season on Senior Night at Wapakoneta High School.
Wapak trailed by 10 points, 34-24, in the third period but outscored Minster 26-12 the rest of the way to notch a 50-46 win Tuesday in a non-league varsity girls basketball game, giving Minster its first loss in 2014.
The Wildcats’ last loss was Dec. 27 against the against Wadsworth in the Bath Holiday Tournament.
Minster was ranked eighth in Division VI in Tuesday’s final weekly release of the Associated Press poll for the 2013-14 season. The Wildcats received two of the 23 first-place votes. Wadsworth was the No. 4 team in Division I in Tuesday’s poll.
The Redskins trailed for the equivalent of three periods after Minster took control of the game midway through the first period.
Minster led 28-20 at halftime, and Wapak reduced that eight-point deficit in half by the end of third period, trailing 38-34.
Minster’s first field goal of the fourth period, a 3-pointer by Claire Fisher gave her team a five-point lead, 41-36, but Minster scored only five points the rest of the game.
A 3-pointer by the Redskins’ Maddi Stiles brought the game back to within two, 41-39, before a deuce by Minster’s Kayla Richard put the lead at four, 43-39.
The Wildcats would go the another five minutes before their next field goal.
The Redskins made a run for the win over the final 4 minutes.
A three-point play by Sara Warner pulled Wapak within one, 43-42. Following a Wildcats turnover, with 3:20 left in the game, the Redskins’ Carly Buzzard scored a go-ahead bucket from a Warner pass, giving Wapak its first lead of the game, 44-43, since the first period.
Warner and Stiles each sank two free throws on separate trips to the foul line, putting the Redskins ahead by four with 31.1 seconds left in the game.
Logan Arnold’s two with 11 seconds to play cut Minster’s deficit in half, 48-46, with 11 seconds left.
Underneath Minster’s basket on an inbounds play with under 10 seconds left, Wapak turned the ball over only to see Minster be called for a traveling violation 2 seconds later.
The Wildcats fouled Warner who sank two free throws to seal the game.
“The girls handled it well,” Wapak varsity coach Rusty Allen said about the turnover on the inbounds play. “We turn the ball over but we didn’t panic and do something silly, defensively, like get out of position, try to steal it back or make a dumb foul. Our girls buckled down and said ‘let’s defend here.’ It threw (Minster) off a little bit. We ended up getting that travel call. It was good defensive presence on our part.”
Allen described the biggest difference in the two halves of Tuesday’s game.
“I think our intensity level in the second half was much better,” he said. “It’s not like we made a ton of adjustments at halftime. We felt like we were doing some nice things offensively and defensively. We just felt like our intensity level wasn’t really where it should have been. I thought we could have pressured the ball a little bit more, defensively. Offensively, I thought we went through the motions instead of attacking their defense.”
The Redskins made their final eight free throws, including all seven of them in the fourth quarter.
Minster coach Nann Stechschulte pinpointed the difference in free-throw shooting as one of two keys in the result of Tuesday’s game.
Wapak made 12 of 15 free throws Tuesday, while Minster sank 6 of 11.
“When a team makes more than you shoot, you’re going to get beat most of the time,” she said. “That’s a key statistic.”
The coach also felt rebounding played a huge factor in the third period.
“In the first half, they weren’t half they weren’t comfortable,” Stechschulte said. “In the second half, we let them do too much of what they wanted to do. In the third quarter, we got outrebounded. They got some easy baskets off stick-backs. You start that doing, the confidence grows and you get comfortable.”
In the Redskins’ comeback effort, Allen felt confident but worried about having enough time to recover from a 10-point deficit midway through the third quarter.
“We felt comfortable,” he said. “We felt we could make a run at them. We were just hoping we would have enough time.
“When you wait a whole half to start playing with intensity, you worry about did you wait too long?”
Wapak’s win Tuesday was much-needed for a variety of reasons.
Teams always hope to win on Senior Night, the Redskins had lost three of their last four games and needed some momentum going into their league finale against Van Wert on Thursday, not to mention needing some confidence with the postseason starting next week.
Allen explained the importance of his team’s win Tuesday over Minster.
“It’s huge for us,” the coach said. “We played well Saturday against Liberty-Benton. This is back-to-back nights we’ve played well against state-ranked teams.
“We’ve talked about this. We knew we weren’t really peaking early on. Yeah, you’re wanting to win the league but we also understood that we’re a young team and we wanted to peak at the right time, and hopefully we are. We’ve talked the last few days, saying ‘don’t let down. Don’t be satisfied with where we are. We’ve still got potentially a lot of games to play yet.’”
Stechschulte explained whether Tuesday’s loss will affect her team with the postseason upcoming next week.
“It might be a wakeup call actually,” she said. “It would have been nice to be on the road and to win a close one. We had opportunities but we didn’t convert.”
Tuesday’s game was the final home contest for four Wapak seniors — Warner, Schnell, Karli Schneider and Hilary Bourne — all of whom were in the starting lineup Tuesday.
Warner posted 15 points to lead the Redskins. Buzzard added 11 points. Stiles had seven, while Schnell and Schneider scored six each. Riley Culver added four, and Bourne tallied one.
Wapak will conclude its regular season Thursday in a road game against the Van Wert Cougars on the final night of the Western Buckeye League schedule.
The Redskins will enter that game with a 12-9 record.
Wapak and Van Wert are each 6-2 in the WBL entering Thursday.
Leading after each of the first three periods, the Redskins’ junior varsity team also had to rally Tuesday for a win over Minster.
Wapak scored the final six points of the game, all from the free-throw line, to win 35-31.
The Redskins’ Blasia Moyler, Allie Zofkie and Faith Hensley each went 2 for 2 on trips to the line in the final 35.6 seconds of the game.
Moyler led Wapak with 13 points.