SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor
DELPHOS — Despite a 22-0 run spanning some of the third and fourth quarters, the Van Wert Cougars came up short against Delphos St. John’s, losing 57-52 on Friday night.
Trailing 48-22 roughly midway through the third quarter, the Cougars scored 10 straight points, all by Jacoby Kelly, to close the gap to 48-32 at the end of the period. Kelly accounted for all 12 of Van Wert’s points in the quarter, and he finished the game with 17.
Drew Bagley opened the scoring in the final quarter with two free throws, followed by baskets by Blake Henry and Nate Place, then a steal and bucket by John Lee trimmed the deficit to 48-40 and forced the Blue Jays to call time out. After that, consecutive steals and baskets by Thane Cowan and Kelly made it 48-44. Collin Will stopped the run with a basket at the 5:16 mark, but Bagley responded with a trey 30 seconds later, before Curtis Schwinnen and Jared Wurst hit foul shots to push the lead to 53-47. Bagley, who finished with a season high 18 points, countered with a basket and a triple to bring the Cougars to within one, 53-52 with 1:35 left.
Wurst was fouled on the ensuing possession and hit the first foul shot, then missed the second. Connor Hulihan swooped in, grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on the return shot to effectively end the game.
“We were non-competitive for two and a half quarters,” Van Wert head coach Mark Bagley said. “I don’t have any answers for that. For an experienced team to play like we did, I don’t have any answers.”
“I’m proud of my guys for how they fought,” Bagley added. “But moral victories are not going to win in our program.”
In the first half, the Cougars had no answer for Richard Cocuzza. The 6-0 senior drilled a trio of triples and a basket in the opening quarter, including a three-pointer to beat the buzzer, then scored nine more points in the second quarter.
“We put him in situations to attack and he had a couple of early ones go in,” Delphos St. John’s head coach Aaron Elwer explained. “He had a great half of basketball and kind of got us going.”
Elwer added he knew it was just a matter of time before the Cougars would start rolling offensively.
“With their length, their athleticism and their team speed, I think Coach Bagley wanted them to speed up the game, and they did that,” Elwer said. “We obviously didn’t handle it well.”
Both teams are back in action tonight. The Blue Jays (4-2) will entertain Ottoville, while the Cougars (2-2) will return home to play Wayne Trace.
“It’s our first double weekend,” Bagley said. “We exerted a lot of energy to get back in tonight’s game. Wayne Trace is going to come out and do a lot of things against us.”
“We need to turn the page,” Bagley added. “We can’t dwell on this, and we have to focus on the positives and move on from there.”
Delphos St. John’s 20 16 12 9 – 57
Van Wert 11 9 12 20 – 52
Delphos St. John’s: Curtis Schwinnen 1-1-3; Jared Wurst 4-4-8; Richard Cocuzza 10-0-25; Connor Hulihan 4-0-10; Collin Will 1-0-2; Lucas Metcalfe 1-0-3; Brady Parrish 0-1-1; Brady Grothaus 1-0-3; Grant Csukker 1-0-2
Van Wert: Nate Place 2-0-6; Jacoby Kelly 7-3-17; John Lee 1-0-2; Blake Henry 2-1-7; Drew Bagley 7-1-18; Thane Cowan 1-0-2
JV: Van Wert 46-45