SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor
Free throws were the difference in Thursday’s Western Buckeye League basketball game between the Van Wert Lady Cougars and Wapakoneta.
Playing in their first home game of the season, the Lady Cougars connected on four of 10 foul shots, while the Redskins hit 16 of 18, including six straight in the final 48 seconds to secure Wapakoneta’s 39-33 win.
The Lady Redskins (4-1, 2-0 Western Buckeye League) escaped with the victory, despite hitting just three baskets in the entire second half.
“Defensively, I thought we did the best job we could, keeping Wapak to 39 points,” Van Wert head coach Rob Adams said.
Things looked good early for Van Wert. Baskets by Abby Jackson and Caylee Phillips, then a three-pointer by Alexis Metz gave Van Wert a 7-3 lead to start the game. The Lady Cougars later led 11-7 until Wapakoneta’s Lexi Jacobs beat the buzzer with a bucket to make it 11-9 to start the second quarter.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the second period. A free throw by Phillips with 5:48 left in the period was the only score for Van Wert until the 1:42 mark, when Metz drilled her second trey. Eight of Wapakoneta’s 10 points came within a 90 span in the quarter, including two baskets by Makenzie Wilson, who finished the game with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
Both teams continued to struggle offensively in the third quarter, as Van Wert hit two baskets, while Wapakoneta hit just one. The Lady Redskins opened up a 23-17 lead with 5:30 left, then didn’t score again until Lexi Jacobs hit two foul shots with 7.9 seconds remaining in the period. In the meantime, Van Wert’s only points came on back-to-back buckets by Jackson and Reagan Priest.
Trailing 25-19 to begin the fourth quarter, Priest hit an early triple to cut Wapakoneta’s lead to three, but the Redskins responded with a basket from Jessica Davis.
The Lady Cougars kept chipping away, with two free throws by Jackson, another trey by Priest and a foul shot by Jamison Clouse to climb to within one, 29-28. After two free throws by Jacobs, Priest drilled her third three pointer of the quarter to tie the game at 31 with 2:48 left.
“That’s all it takes in a low scoring game like that,” Adams said. “You have to capitalize on every single possession if you’re going to have a chance in those games.”
“You cannot do that (miss shots) in the WBL in tight contests,” Adams added. “You just can’t do it.”
Unfortunately for Van Wert, it would be the final basket until Cassidy Meyers scored with 20 seconds left.
Jacobs, who finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, iced the win with six consecutive foul shots. 10 of her points came in the fourth quarter.
Van Wert (1-5, 0-2 WBL) will host Minster on Saturday.
Van Wert 11 4 4 14 – 33
Wapakoneta 9 10 6 14 – 39
Van Wert: Alexis Metz 2-0-6; Jamison Clouse 0-1-1; Abby Jackson 3-2-8; Cassidy Meyers 1-0-2; Caylee Phillips 1-1-3; Reagan Priest 5-0-13
Wapakoneta: Lexi Jacobs 4-10-17; Alex Debell 1-2-4; Makenzie Wilson 4-3-11; Katie Engle 1-0-2; Jessica Davis 1-0-2; Sarah Pothast 1-1-3
JV: Wapakoneta won 39-38