Lady Cougars stun Kenton in OT

VAN WERT – Van Wert came up with big play after big play late in the Cougars' 59-53 overtime win over Kenton Thursday night. The surprising win leaves Van Wert at 5-12 overall and 1-5 in the Western Buckeye League. Kenton is 10-5 and 3-3.

"We knew coming in it was gonna be a battle," said Van Wert coach Rob Adams. "Ryan (Miller, Kenton coach) has a nice team over there. This is a huge win for Van Wert's program. The girls reacted like we won state."

The really big plays started with the Cougars trailing 46-42 late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore speedster Caylee Phillips cashed in two free throws at 2:30 and, after two missed Kenton free throws, senior Cassidy Meyers swished a put-back in heavy traffic at 1:04 to tie it at 46-all. The Van Wert defense then held the Wildcats to only a last-second baseline 15-footer which missed, sending the game into overtime.

Sophomore Jamison Clouse's layup started the overtime -- 48-46, Cougars -- but Kenton senior Ellie Miller's old-style 3-point play (muscle layup and one) put Kenton up 49-48 with 3:22 on the clock. Clouse's two free throws got the lead back, but senior Layne Taylor did likewise -- 51-50, 'Cats, at 2:52. Cougar junior Abby Jackson was fouled inside and hit the second of the double bonus to tie it at 51.

Phillips then swiped the in-bounds pass and laid it in to lead 53-51. Kenton's senior point guard Haylee Bushong made the second of two to get the visitors within one at 53-52, and, after a Van Wert turnover, Taylor also converted one of two -- 53-53 with 1:19 left. Clouse's assist led to a Jackson layup -- 55-53 at 0:59. Cougar junior Reagan Priest then came up with a huge interception, was fouled and hit two pressure-packed free throws to lead 57-53 with 39 seconds left. Kenton misfired, Van Wert rebounded, and Clouse's open layup (assist Priest) sewed it up at 0:04.

"We've been doing this all year, some teams got us down," said Adams. "We've been fighting hard, and we talked about taking the next step, and when are we gonna do that? I thought our girls stepped up when they needed to. We have a next play mentality. We don't get hung up; we try to stick with the game plan and keep pushing from there."

The first half was close throughout with two ties and six lead changes, Kenton holding a 22-21 lead after those 16 minutes. Van Wert's zone forced Kenton to the perimeter where the Wildcats made only 2 of 17 threes (8 of 33 overall). The Cougars were only a bit better -- 8 of 25 overall (3 of 10 from long range). 

The third and fourth quarters were opposites. Van Wert was superb in the third, mainly from the free throw line (9 of 12) and better than Kenton, though not great, from the field, at 4 for 14 (1 of 3 from long range) compared to the visitors' 2 of 15 (1 of 12 from beyond the arc). Thus, Van Wert led 39-32 going into the fourth quarter. That momentum didn't last.

Van Wert turned the ball over on its first two fourth quarter possessions, and Kenton went on a 14-3 run to get the aforementioned 46-42 lead at 3:20. The Wildcats seemed to have the momentum, but it ended right there.

Neither team shot well from the field -- Van Wert 32 percent (18 of 56) from the field, including 33 percent (5 of 15) from three; Kenton 24 percent (15 of 63) overall and 14 percent (5 of 36) from three. There was a significant difference from the free throw line -- Cougars 67 percent (18 of 27), Wildcats only 50 percent (18 of 36). With all of those missed shots, there were plenty of rebounds to be had, and the Cougs got most of them, 44-36. Kenton had a lot fewer turnovers, 13-28.

Priest led the Van Wert scoring with 14, including three triples. Meyers, Phillips, and Clouse chipped in with 10, 9, and 8. Bushong, Miller, and Taylor had 18, 16, and 9 for Kenton.