Lady Cougars smother Paulding

VAN WERT — After a first half that saw Paulding shoot 50 percent from the floor, Van Wert entered the second half of Tuesday’s girls basketball game at the Cougars Den tied 21-21. A 9-0 run to start the third quarter sparked the Lady Cougars to a 46-29 win.

“I don’t spend a ton of time at halftime; I go in there and give them three points and we’re out. But I thought the girls responded,” Van Wert head coach Rob Adams said. “We knew the first half was going to be a grind; we’re always worried about Paulding coming in and testing us. We knew tonight that we had to do the small things to try to get through this one, and we did.”

The Panthers were held to just 8 points in the second half while shooting 3-for-17 from the field. Paulding also committed 19 of their 32 turnovers after halftime.

The turning point in the game came on a steal at half court by Cougar sophomore Caylee Phillips. She picked the pocket of Paulding’s Sydney McCullough and went the distance for a layup that gave Van Wert its largest lead to that point at 26-21. After a Paulding timeout, Phillips duplicated the feat, and on the next Panther possession, it was Van Wert senior Cassidy Meyers who came up with a steal at midcourt and a layup at the far end.

“That group that was in there [in the third quarter], Sierra Shaffer, Caylee, Cassidy, Jerica Huebner and Abby [Jackson] did a really nice job for us in the third quarter,” Adams said. “They gave us a spark, and we went on a little run. I don’t think we looked back from there.”

The Cougars built the lead to double figures on a Reagan Priest bucket early in the fourth, but consecutive hoops by Paulding’s Kaylen Hale snapped a 9 1/2 minute drought between Panther baskets and forced a Cougar timeout with the lead down to 34-27. An Abby Jackson offensive rebound and score stemmed the tide and restored momentum to the Cougars’ side. Jackson’s bucket sparked a 12-2 Cougar run to close out the game.

Van Wert (4-10) got off to a strong start in the game, as Priest buried a 3-pointer to open the scoring. When Meyers dropped in a runner, it was 7-2, Cougars, but Paulding, behind the strong post play of Briana Townley, came back to within 7-6. Shaffer finished a fast break to extend the lead before Jamison Clouse scored in the lane. Alexis Metz drilled a trey to give a Van Wert a 14-11 lead after one period.

Hale’s hoop early in the second gave Paulding its first lead of the game, but it didn’t last long. A baseline jumper from senior Alexis Rupert put the Cougars back on top, and Priest’s hoop in the lane made it a 3-point margin. Paulding came back and took its second – and final– lead of the game at 21-20 on a Townley free throw, but Clouse made one at the stripe for a 21-21 halftime score.

Townley finished as the only player on either team to score in double figures, she had 13 points and 7 rebounds. Hale added 8 points for Paulding, which falls to 2-12 on the season.

The Cougars were led by 8 points and 10 assists from Meyers. She also had 6 steals. Phillips finished with 8 points and 4 steals. Priest and Clouse scored 7 points, each.

Van Wert is back on the court on Thursday at Shawnee.