SCOTT TRUXELL/independent sports editor
Van Wert built a nine point lead in the first half, but Wayne Trace stormed back and defeated the Cougars 53-44 in boys’ non-conference basketball action on Saturday night.
Nate Place scored seven of his 17 points in the opening quarter, and helped the Cougars enjoy an 11-4 advantage at the end of the period. Drew Bagley added two baskets in the quarter.
A bucket by Owen Treece to open the second period gave Van Wert a 13-4 lead, but the Raiders responded with a 16-4 run. Nate Gerber sparked the run with a pair of treys, and Eli Sinn scored eight consecutive points to give Wayne Trace a 20-15 lead. Place ended the run with a three pointer, but Josh Kuhn’s late foul shot gave the Raiders a 21-18 lead at halftime.
Both teams were successful from three point range in the third quarter and the game became chippy, with a bit of pushing and shoving during the period. Treece hit a pair of triples and Jacoby Kelly drained one for the Cougars, while Josiah Linder had two for the Raiders, and Sinn and Trae Sinn each had one.
Both coaches agreed the game was a physical one.
“It was very physical one, and both teams competed really hard,” Van Wert head coach Mark Bagley said.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been in that kind of physical game, which we told our kids that’s the way it was going to be,” Wayne Trace head coach Jim Linder said. “We battled, and both of us got away with things we shouldn’t have.”
Leading 34-33 entering the fourth quarter, the Raiders received baskets from Jake Kuhn and Eli Sinn to stretch the lead to 38-33. Treece scored for Van Wert, and a pair of foul shots by Jacoby Kelly tied the game at 38 at the 4:38 mark. From there, Wayne Trace outscored Van Wert 15-5, including four points by Linder and a 9 of 10 team performance from the free throw line. The Raiders finished the game 12 of 17 from the foul line.
“Tonight we stepped up and made free throws,” Linder said. “We shot a lot of them before we left on the bus (for Van Wert), and that was one thing we wanted to shore up.”
“This game was earmarked as one of our top two or three games on the schedule.” Linder added. “They’ve got some great athletic kids.”
Eli Sinn led Wayne Trace with 17 points, and Linder finished with 11.
The Cougars will regroup after the Christmas holiday, and Bagley said he expects his team will be ready to get back to work.
“When we come back on Wednesday we’re going to go to work – we’re going to analyze film, we’re going to analyze how we do things in practice, we’re going to analyze every single part of what we do, because that’s how we do things here,” Bagley explained. “It’s a painful process for us right now. There are expectations we had for ourselves and we’re not meeting those expectations right now.”
“It’s going to be a collective effort from everybody, from coaches to players,” Bagley added. “Only we can fix it. No one else can fix it, but we can fix it.”
Van Wert 11 7 15 11 – 44
Wayne Trace 4 17 13 19 – 53
Van Wert: Nate Place 7-0-17; Jacoby Kelly 3-3-11; Blake Henry 1-0-2; Drew Bagley 3-0-6; Owen Treece 3-0-8
Wayne Trace: Eli Sinn 6-3-17; Josh Kuhn 2-4-8; Nate Gerber 2-0-6; Josiah Linder 3-3-11; Trae Sinn 2-0-5; Jake Kuhn 2-2-6
JV: Van Wert 53-35