KALIDA — The Van Wert coaching staff has been talking to their players about the need to finish quarters strong.
As the Cougars faced Kalida Tuesday night in non-league action, Van Wert was able to do that in three of the four quarters. Their play down the stretch in the second and third quarters, then being able to finish in the final quarter allowed the Cougars to claim their third straight win with a 54-40 win over Kalida at the Richard L. Kortokrax Court.
Van Wert is now 6-7 on the season, while Kalida dropped to 11-3.
Two of the bigger moments of the game for the Cougars came just before halftime and at the end of the third quarter.
Struggling offensively in the second quarter, Van Wert found themselves down six points. The Cougars were able to find their offense late in the quarter going on a 7-0 run to take a 19-18 lead after a three-pointer by Drew Bagley and a layup off a steal by Jacoby Kelly. Kalida regained the lead just before halftime when Josh Klausing drained a three-pointer.
In the third quarter, Van Wert started the second half with a 6-2 run to take a 25-23 lead. Their lead was seven points at 35-28 after two Nate Place baskets before the Wildcats Braden Decker canned a three-pointer making it a four point game. Two free throws by Bagley ended the third quarter scoring giving Van Wert a six point lead. It also was some momentum for the Cougars to carry over into the start of the fourth quarter.
“I thought the end of the third (quarter) and the start of the fourth were huge,” Van Wert coach Mark Bagley said. “We have really been preaching the last week or so about finishing quarters well because we hadn’t done that this year. I really thought we finished quarters well tonight for the most part.”
“Turnovers due to inexperience,” Kalida coach Ryan Stechschulte pointed out as to the Cougars being able to make their run. “Grant Laudick was on the bench in foul trouble and he is our only starter back from last year. We had two sophomores and a freshman on the floor and we just made some unforced errors that we have to learn from.”
Besides being able to finish quarters strong, coach Bagley felt his team did a better job offensively the second half as they were looking to shoot three-pointers too much the first half.
“We kind of played the wrong way the first half; we shot too many three’s. We were hot this weekend and we were too much outside-inside,” Bagley said. “Most of our points the first half were off layup turnovers. I thought our defensive pressure helped us, but we didn’t play well the first half, then the second half we played more to our liking.”
Van Wert took 18 three-pointers in the game making four of them. They hit back-to-back three’s in the third quarter as Blake Henry and Kelly hit from deep that gave the Cougars the lead for good. In the final quarter, Van Wert didn’t attempt a three as they were able to get some transition baskets before finishing the game at the line.
A Luke Erhart basket had Kalida within 46-40 with 2:53 left before the Cougars sealed their win at the line as they were 6-of-7 at the charity stripe and 16-of-17 for the game. The Wildcats missed their final six shots from the field as they shot 14-of-46 for the game (30 percent).
Kelly paced the Cougars with a game high 16 points along with five rebounds, six assists and five steals. Henry added 12 points and Drew Bagley had 11 points.
Trevor Lambert paced Kalida with 15 points. Luke Erhart grabbed seven rebounds for the Wildcats.