With the Wapakoneta Redskins trailing the Van Wert Cougars 22-16 with 3:32 left in the first half, junior guard Kodi Morgan drove to the hole and drew the foul. He sank the free throw.
After converting the traditional 3-point play, he sank two long-range jumpers and catapulted the Redskins to a 27-22 lead, one they would not relinquish the rest of the game as they won their fourth game in their last five by a 53-46 margin.
Morgan ended the game with 17 points to lead all scorers, hitting 6-of-8 from the floor. He also grabbed four rebounds on the night.
“I know Kodi Morgan can do that and Kodi Morgan’s confidence right now is sky high,” Redskins varsity boys basketball coach Doug Selvey said. “He picked guys up tonight, he picked guys up who didn’t have as good of a game as they have had in the past and he made a difference. I know Kodi can do that and that is that veteran leadership that we need from him coming back from last year and returning as a starter.”
Cougar varsity coach Mark Bagley knew Morgan could be dangerous if he hit a few shots and his confidence grew.
“We didn’t guard him the way we talked about,” Bagley said. “We let him get comfortable and we know he is a streaky player and he got hot and he was going underneath screens and we weren’t chasing him. Give him credit he made the shots.”
The win moves the Redskins to 2-6 in the Western Buckeye League and 5-14 overall, while Van Wert drops to 2-6 and 9-11.
Morgan’s shots negated a quick start as the Cougars jumped out to an 8-2 lead and built a 14-4 lead senior guard Jake Bruns hit a free throw, junior post Adam Henderson hit a jumper and Morgan hit a mid-range jumper to close out the first period.
The Cougars built a 20-11 second quarter lead before Morgan and Henderson hit buckets again to start to turn the tide and force Van Wert to fall into an old trap.
“After the quick start, we fell in love with jump shots and we missed layups and when you fall in love with jump shots and you miss layups and free throws then it becomes a game which becomes very competitive.
"That has been the story of our season and why we are .500 because we play great in spurts and then we have a second quarter like we did tonight.”
For Selvey, who has watched his team beat Van Wert and Kenton in WBL action and Ada and Sidney in non-league action, his team has more confidence and composure.
“The key was we were able to keep our composure,” Selvey said. “Anytime you get outscored 14-4 at the beginning of the game, we kept our composure and we fought back. I jumped on them and they responded to it and that is what kids do and give credit to them, especially against a team like Van Wert who plays physical and plays that hard.”
The Redskins needed that composure as the Cougars mounted a comeback in the third period tying the score at the 6:53 mark and only trailing 40-39 with 5:28 left in the contest. This time Henderson hit a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Redskins breathing room.
Henderson ended the game with 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds on the night. Sophomore post Corey Crawford played consistent through the game scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds, while sophomore post Aaron Huffman also scored 4 points on the night in limited action.
“Both those guys are sophomores and are really coming around quicker than I expected and that is a credit to them and how hard they work,” Selvey said. “Every day at practice, Corey gets after it and every day after practice he stays 30 minutes to an hour working on stuff and it is a credit to him. The sky is the limit for him and Aaron.”
The leading scorers for the Cougars were Connor Holliday with 13 points and three rebounds, Matt Bidlack with 9 points and four rebounds and Michael Smelser with 8 points and three boards.
For Selvey it is continuing to improve and play better each game.
“They played Wapakoneta basketball tonight and that is the best way to describe it.”