BRYAN -- Van Wert completed a highly successful weekend with a 64-40 trouncing of Bryan Saturday night. The Cougars are now 5-7, the Golden Bears 5-8.
It may have been the hottest shooting night Van Wert has seen this season. The Cougars shot an outstanding 54 percent (25 of 46) from the field, including an even more outstanding 69 percent (11 of 16) on 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Van Wert defense was stellar. Although Bryan shot a solid 47 percent (18 of 38) from the field, that was skewed by the Bears' 7-for-11 fourth quarter, long after matters were decided. Bryan made only 2 of 8 threes.
Jacoby Kelly, Van Wert's playmaker and leading scorer this season, stuck primarily to his playmaking role in this one, shooting seldom and scoring only eight points, including two 3-pointers.
Kelly's scoring wasn't needed here because juniors Nate Place and Drew Bagley were shooting lights out. Place had 24 points, including five threes that touched nothing but net. Bagley scored 22, including four triples. Junior Blake Henry contributed 10 points. Those four, in fact, were the only Cougar scorers in the game. Bryan's outstanding senior point guard, Zhane Cupp, led the Golden Bears with 21.
"I think overall we did a pretty good job," said Cougar coach Mark Bagley. "Once we started rebounding the basketball better and got out in transition, it's amazing when that little orange ball starts going through the rim how confidence breeds confidence. They (the Bears) are a very dangerous team. We knew it'd be a challenge tonight, and the kids responded really well."
Van Wert never trailed in the game, jumping out to a 17-10 first quarter lead and leading by 10-12 points throughout the second period. It was 28-16 at the half. Cougar fans couldn't start to feel comfortable, however, until late in the third when consecutive layups by Henry made it 43-24 going into the fourth.
Van Wert canned all five of its fourth-quarter 3-point attempts -- three by Bagley and two by Place. Both coaches emptied their benches with two minutes left in the game.
Free throws were not a factor, Van Wert 3 for 3, Bryan 2 for 8. The Cougars won the boards 19-15 and had fewer turnovers, 12-14.
Place appears to have recovered finally from mononucleosis. "He's not been right until this weekend," said Bagley. "This weekend you saw Nate Place when he was right. He had 20-plus both games, and he's averaged about eight a game; last year he averaged 16. When you add Nate into the puzzle it makes us a lot different. We had some growing pains, but I think we're trending in the right direction now."
The Cougar jayvees fell to 10-2 with their 46-37 loss. LeTrey Williams led the Van Wert scoring with 14. Adam Queen had 17 for Bryan.