BASKETBALL: Wapak downed at the Cougar Den

VAN WERT — The Van Wert Cougars used their clear size advantage to cruise to a 54-39 win over the Wapakoneta Redskins in a Western Buckeye League varsity girls basketball game Thursday at Van Wert High School.

The game turned in the second quarter when the Cougars outscored Wapak 16-3 to take a 26-11 lead into the lockerroom.

Van Wert held the Redskins without a field goal for a span of 13:36, starting late in the first quarter and extending into the first five minutes of the third.

Defensively, the Cougars constantly had a hand in the face of the Wapak shooters, holding the Redskins to just 14-of-54 shooting (25 percent) for the game.

And despite missing 40 field goal attempts, Wapak could muster just eight offensive boards.  Van Wert held a 28-20 overall edge on the boards.

“To sum it up tonight, we just got outworked,” Redskins varsity coach Rusty Allen said.  “They really just physically pushed us around and forced us into positions we weren’t really comfortable with on the offensive end.”

Six-foot-one senior Alex Morrow, the granddaughter of hall-of-fame Kalida coach Dick Kortokrax, led Van Wert with 18 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots.

Freshman Alexis Dowday added 13 points and four rebounds.  

“For a freshman, she’s a load,” Allen said.  “Whatever she wanted to do, she did. ...  The position she was getting on us was just creating havoc.  You would have thought she had 20 points they way she played.  She really created a mismatch for us inside.”

Senior Brooke Keber chipped in with 10 points with a pari of 3-pointers.

Sophomore Sara Warner scored 11 to lead Wapak.  Senior Tasha Helmstetter added 10 points.

Van Wert stormed to an early 8-0 lead to open the game.  Allen called a timeout and dropped the 2-3 zone the Redskins started the game with in favor of man-to-man pressure.  Wapak responded and closed the gap to 10-8 on 3-pointers from Warner and sophomore Karli Schneider.

“We felt we were in pretty good shape there,” Allen said.  “We dug ourselves into a hole there.  But the girls stayed composed and chipped away.  We had a couple chances to take the lead there towards the end of the quarter and just didn’t do it.”

Schneider’s three with 36 seconds left in the quarter would be the last time Wapak would make a field goal until Warner drained a three from the left wing with 5:00 on the clock in the third quarter.

Things weren’t any better at the free throw line where the Redskins were just 3-of-8 over that span.

“We really just laid an egg,” Allen said.  

Van Wert led 36-20 after three quarters.

Three-pointers from freshman Megan Watt and Helmstetter helped Wapak close the gap to just 12 points, 42-30, with 4:41 left in the game.  But back-to-back turnovers stalled the rally and the Redskins would get no closer.

“I think we played hard,” Allen said.  “I’m not faulting our effort.  I just think our execution wasn’t 100-percent tonight.  It was more along the 60-, 65-percent range.”

Wapak and Van Wert now have identical records.  Both are 10-8 overall and 5-3 in the WBL.

The Redskins have just two games remaining before tournament play starts.  The host the New Knoxville Rangers on Tuesday and travel to Shawnee to take on the Indians on Thursday.

In the junior varsity contest, Wapak opened the third quarter with a 12-0 run to turn a 20-17 halftime deficit into a 29-20 lead.  Freshman Sarah Horman capped the run with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

The Redskins didn’t look back and pulled out a 46-35 win.

Watt led Wapak with 15 points, including two 3-pointers.  Horman finished with 14 points and two assists.  And freshman Carly Buzzard pulled down a team-high four rebounds.