VAN WERT — The Wapakoneta Redskins faced a deficit even more dire Thursday against the Van Wert Cougars than the one they faced in their 10-point comeback Tuesday against Minster.
Right about the time the Redskins assumed the lead for good in Tuesday’s game, they had chances to do the same Thursday but ultimately could not pull off another comeback.
Van Wert prevailed for a 48-40 win Thursday over Wapakoneta on the final night of the regular season for both teams in a Western Buckeye League varsity girls basketball game at Van Wert High School.
Wapakoneta trailed by 11 points at halftime, 29-18, and by 10 after the third period, 38-28, and was able to cut its deficit to two, 38-36, with 4:32 left in the fourth period but Van Wert came alive in order to secure the win.
Wapak trailed by eight at halftime, by 10 once in the third period and by four entering the fourth period Tuesday in the comeback win.
Redskins senior Sara Warner did all she could to keep her team in position for a comeback Thursday.
Warner got Wapak started immediately after halftime with a 5-0 run to cut Van Wert’s lead to six, 29-23.
Despite a 3-pointer by Warner late in the third period, the Cougars managed a 10-point lead, 38-28, entering the fourth.
Wapak held Van Wert scoreless until 2:26 left in the game, while Warner scored six points as part of an 8-0 run by the Redskins in that time to bring the Van Wert lead down to two, 38-36.
The Cougars’ Alexa Dunlap and Cheynee Handy combined for a 7-0 scoring run in the next minute of the game to seal the win.
“I liked the way our girls clawed back to get in that position but I felt like we shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with,” Wapak varsity coach Rusty Allen said.
The Redskins actually held an 11-2 lead in the early moments of the game before Van Wert made a 16-0 run to end the first period.
With their 11-point halftime lead, the Cougars completed a 20-point turnaround in the first half alone.
Hardy and Erin Morrow each had 15 points to lead Van Wert in scoring Thursday. Alexa Dunlap added 11 points for the Cougars.
Warner scored 16 of Wapak’s 22 points in the second half Thursday and had a game-high 18 points.
“She’s done that a lot for us this year,” Allen said. “To score 16 points in that second half to try to keep us in the game … we just needed somebody else to step up in that second half, but we just didn’t have it tonight.”
Wapak’s Megan Watt scored nine points, all on 3-pointers.
The Redskins finished the 2013-14 regular season with a 12-10 overall record.
Allen evaluated his team’s regular season performance compared to his expections for it.
“Obviously, from a wins perspective, every team wants to win more games, and, obviously, not a whole lot of teams finish the season perfect,” he said. “My expectations coming into this season, I felt we would win more than we lost. That was a goal.”
Allen discussed his team’s status entering the postseason.
“Where we are right now, this is about where we want to be in terms of the way we’re playing,” the coach said. “Tonight was not one of those nights, but you can’t take anything away from Van Wert. They don’t have (18) wins for no reason. We’re playing those teams. We’re right there. We just beat a state-ranked team. We just played a two-point game against a state-ranked team before that.
“We’re playing where we want to play. We’ve just got to make sure we continue to play this way and cut down on some of the mistakes we made tonight.”
The Redskins will wait eight full days between games, as their first tournament game will be Feb. 22 in a Division II Northwest District sectional championship at Spencerville High School.
Allen described how his team will focus its preparation with the long break before the tournament game.
“We’ve got to continue coming into practice and playing with some intensity,” he said. “With a week off, yeah, we’re going to save our legs some days and give the girls some days off in terms of floor prepartion. We’ll be in the film room doing some other things.
“We’ve had a pretty brutal schedule. We’re going to try to keep up the intensity but yet save the legs when we can next week.”
Van Wert finished its season with an 18-4 record and 7-2 in the WBL, good for third place in the league.
Wapak was the fourth-place team in the WBL with a 6-3 record.
Bath clinched the WBL title outright Thursday with a win over Elida.
Bath has now won the league title the past four seasons, with the last three including a 9-0 record in WBL play.
Wapak’s junior varsity team closed its season with a 49-38 win Thursday against Van Wert.
Cori Hager posted 14 points, and Blasia Moyler had 13 points for the Redskins.