SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor
Friday night’s Western Buckeye League opener at Wapakoneta will feature two teams mentioned in the race for the 2017-2018 league championship – the Redskins and the Van Wert Cougars.
Van Wert (2-0) has posted wins over county rivals Lincolnview (50-42) and Crestview (48-44), while Wapakoneta (2-1) has victories over Piqua (62-38) and Sidney (54-40), along with a loss to Indian Lake (43-39).
Both teams were forced to rally for wins last Friday. Van Wert trailed Crestview 33-24 midway through the third quarter, but outscored the Knights 24-11 the rest of the way. Jacoby Kelly had a game high 21 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Nate Place also cracked double digits with 12 points.
Meanwhile, the Redskins found themselves trailing Sidney 40-38 with about six minutes left in the game, but finished the contest on a 16-0 run. Adam Scott led Wapakoneta with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Gage Schenk had 14 points. Nick Schoonover tallied 10 points and eight rebounds, and Reid Mericle had six points.
As the two teams prepare to begin league competition, Van Wert head coach Mark Bagley knows the Redskins have a number of solid players back from last year’s team that advanced to the district semifinals before being edged out by Division II A.P. poll champion Upper Sandusky.
“Wapakoneta has four veteran players returning from a 21-3 team and runner-up to Ottawa-Glandorf in the WBL,” Bagley said. “They are very balanced with four players scoring in double figures and all their players can shoot, pass, and dribble with a high skill level.”
“Defensively they play a very aggressive, solid man to man defense with some run and jump,” Bagley added.
Wapakoneta head coach Doug Davis seemed to concur with Bagley’s assessment of the Redskins.
“Our strengths are our athleticism and on good nights our shooting,” Davis explained.
Davis also shared his thoughts on the Cougars, a team pegged by many as a contender (along with the Redskins and defending champion Ottawa-Glandorf) in the WBL title race.
“Our concerns for Van Wert are how hard and physical they play, as well as being able to stop their penetratio,” Davis said.
With just one opponent this weekend, Bagley said his team’s sole focus has been the Redskins, plus continued improvement.
“We are trying to focus on getting better each day and are doing a variety of shooting drills to improve on that aspect of the game,” Bagley stated.
Friday’s game will air live on WERT 1220AM and 104.3FM, and will stream live at www.thevwindependent.com.