BRYAN — The Van Wert girls struggled through a bad first quarter at Bryan Tuesday night, then never really got untracked enough to threaten the Golden Bears, losing 56-45.
The Cougars are now 6-13. Bryan is 12-7.
Although Van Wert jumped out to early leads of 2-1, 4-2, and 6-4, Bryan ended the first quarter with a 13-2 run to lead 17-8 at the break.
Led by junior Kennedy Lamberson, the Bears started the second quarter with nine straight points to up the margin to 26-8. From that point on, the Cougars actually out-played Bryan, but not by much as it turned out. Van Wert point guard Cassidy Meyers, who was stellar at both ends throughout, ended the half with three points the old way to close the gap to 33-20, and there was still plenty of hope for Cougar fans.
Van Wert missed all seven of its first half threes while Bryan was hitting 4 of 11, and that pretty much accounted for the difference.
Cougar junior sharpshooter Alexis Metz started the second half by swishing a 3-pointer from in front — 33-23, Bears, at 7:11. Two free throws by Van Wert sophomore speedster Caylee Phillips and a Meyers put-back got the Cougs within 35-27 at 3:57. Van Wert again got within eight, this time via a put-back by junior Sierra Shaffer at 2:10 — 37-29. A Bryan open layup made it 39-29 after three.
Defense dominated that third quarter, won by Van Wert 9-6. The teams combined for 15 turnovers during those eight minutes — 8 by the Cougars, 7 by the Golden Bears.
Another Metz triple, this one with 7:39 left in the game, made it 41-32, but then it seemed to get away from the Cougars via a 6-0 Bryan run, the last four of those points coming from Lamberson — 47-32 with 4:52 on the clock.
Van Wert wasn’t quite done. Meyers swished a straightaway 17-footer, sophomore Jerica Huebner scored on a breakaway layup (assist Meyers), and Phillips rattled in a 10-foot jumper (assist by junior Reagan Priest) — 47-38 with 2:46 left.
The Cougs were then forced to foul and hope for a lot of missed free throws; that didn’t happen. The Bears hit nothing but net on six straight freebies (four by Lamberson) to seal the deal.
After impressive recent wins over Kenton and Elida, Van Wert coach Rob Adams was clearly disappointed with this one. “We got beat tonight,” said Adams. “I didn’t have the girls ready to play. I don’t feel like we had the energy tonight we normally do, but we’re gonna regroup. We gotta move forward. It’s unfortunate tonight we came over here and didn’t play our best.”
Both teams canned 18 field goals, Bryan on 51 tries (35 percent), Van Wert on 53 tries (34 percent). However, the Cougars were really cold from three — 11 percent (2 for 18, both hits coming from Metz) — while the Bears were considerably better, though not great, at 27 percent (4 of 15).
Van Wert shot free throws better at 78 percent (7 of 9) to the Bears’ 62 percent (16 of 26), but Bryan went to the line a lot more. Bryan was a tad better on the boards, 29-25, and had one less turnover, 18-19.
Phillips, Meyers, and Shaffer led the Cougar scoring with 11, 10, and 8. Eleven Golden Bears played, and 10 of them scored, though only Kennedy Lamberson with 22 had more than six.