FINDLAY – The Van Wert Cougars made the long trip to Findlay High School for the Northwest District Division II Sectional matchup against the Maumee Panthers on Wednesday night. The Cougars used stingy defense in the first half to take a double digit lead that the Panthers couldn’t overcome as Van Wert advanced to the finals with a 58-40 win.
Maumee opened the game with a 3-pointer from Ben Pacer. On the next possession, Pacer came off a screen and got fouled shooting a 3-pointer. After making one of the next three foul shots, the Panthers had an early 4-0 lead.
“I will tell you want John Lee is a total team/glue guy. We have asked him to come off the bench, and he has been every accepting of that. Pacer is a very good offensive players and John Lee set the tone for us defensively, and we carried it on from there,” said Van Wert basketball coach Mark Bagley.
Wednesday night game saw the return of Nate Place after a brief one game absence. Place carried the Cougars early scoring six of the first eight points for Van Wert. A Place layup put Van Wert up 8-6 mid-way through the first quarter.
Van Wert ended the first quarter with back-to-back Jacoby Kelly assists to Owen Treece, who promptly drained two 3-pointers include a buzzer-beater to put Van Wert up 14-6 after one.
“We weren’t sure Nate was going to be able to play in this game until Tuesday; he couldn’t have played last Friday. So we did a lot of therapy with Nate and we finally got him on the floor on Monday, and then Tuesday he had a really good practice. His energy was really good tonight; he had some ups and downs but he provided us a scoring lift for us and gave us a cushion tonight,” continued Coach Bagley.
The Cougars continued to ride the hot hand as Kelly again found Treece to open the second quarter with a corner splashed to put Van Wert up 17-6. Maumee got a floater from David Walker at the 6:49 mark of the second quarter to end a five-minute dry spell for the Panthers. Van Wert continued to build its lead as Drew Bagley scored nine points in the second quarter, including a 3-pointer, to put the Cougars up 28-13 near the end of the first half. Kelly drained two late foul shots to send Van Wert into the intermission up 32-18.
The Panthers came out strong in the third quarter hoping to cut into the Van Wert lead. Maumee hit four 3-pointers to start the second half as Walker drained two triples for the Panthers. The problem for Maumee is that the Cougars had answers for every Panthers’ bucket as Van Wert again fed the hot hand, this time in the form of Place. Place scored 11 of the Cougars’ 13 points in the third quarter as the Panthers could only managed to cut the Van Wert lead by one after three periods, 45-32.
Maumee scored four points to start the final period and four points to end the game. The rest of the fourth quarter was all Van Wert. Jacob Richardson got a put-back bucket to bring the score 49-36, Van Wert. The Cougars scored eight straight points to erase any hope of a Maumee comeback as the Cougars got four points from Bagley during the run..
The final bucket of the contest came from Andy Burkhart for Maumee but it was merely window dressing as Van Wert picked up the 58-40 victory to advance to the sectional final on Friday night. The Cougars will face off against the Bath Wildcats in the second game of split session sectional final on Friday tip off around 8 p.m. Bath advanced to the sectional final after picking up the 64-58 victory over Kenton on Wednesday.
“It’s survive and advance and we will come and play Friday,” finished Coach Bagley
The Cougars won the regular season matchup at Bath by a score of 55-46 in early February.