ST. MARYS — It took some clutch shooting and a big defensive effort to keep Wapakoneta’s chances of sharing a Western Buckeye League title alive after holding off a determined St. Marys squad, 51-47, in a match up of Auglaize County rivals.
With the win, Wapakoneta improves to 7-1 and 15-5 overall. The victory also sets up a showdown with Division II No. 1 Ottawa-Glandorf (21-0, 8-0) on Saturday. The Riders finish their WBL season with a 6-3 mark and St. Marys falls to 13-9 for the season.
Wapakoneta head coach Rusty Allen said his team showed a lot by outlasting the Riders after a tough 39-36 overtime loss against Division IV No. 5 Minster, and credited the team’s interior defense by holding Rider post player Shania Taylor to 10 points and Quincy Rable, who was in foul trouble early, to two points.
“Trying to guard Taylor down low is a job and I thought our girls did a pretty good job on her,” Allen said. “We rotated two, some times three girls on her but I thought Brook (Schlencker) and Blaisia (Moyles) did a great job considering the type of player she is. She can get to the basket.”
Allen added that they also wanted to slow down Sydney Cisco but added that the sharp-shooting senior hit some 3-pointers with Redskins in her face.
“You have to give her (Cisco) credit there,” Allen said. “I can’t ask much better defense. You are going to lose them every know and then… but for the most part she worked for those points that she had.”
Rider head coach Nikki Miars said it came down to several key possessions down the stretch with the game on the line that proved to be the difference.
“I don’t think we were moving very well and once we got inside they were collapsing three girls,” Miars said. “
Both teams put out their best defensive foot forward from the opening buzzer and neither team seemed to find a rhythm offensively. In the first three quarters, Wapakoneta’s largest lead came in the first quarter when the Redskins jumped out to an 11-2 lead. However, as would be the pattern through the game, the Riders found ways to make runs and St. Marys closed out the first stanza with an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 11-10.
The Riders opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run to grab a 19-10 lead, but thanks to the outside shooting of Sydney Cisco and Clare Caywood, who hit two clutch 3-pointers, the Riders cut the lead to 21-18 by halftime.
The Riders took their first lead of the game after scoring the first five points of the second half but the Redskins rallied to knot the score at 26 with a little more than three minutes in the quarter. In the final three minutes, the teams exchanged points and by the time the buzzer sounded to end the period, Wapakoneta owned a 32-30 lead.
For the first six minutes of the final stanza, Wapakoneta maintained its two-point advantage as the two teams exchanged buckets. With 48 seconds left, the Redskins held a three-point lead after Cisco hit two free throws to make it, 47-44.
On the ensuing possession Wapakoneta missed the front end of a one-and-one and the Riders took over. Despite scoring only one point since the second quarter, the Riders went to Taylor for the bucket underneath. The Rider post was turned back and as she fell to the ground, St. Marys was whistled for an intentional foul.
Redskin Brook Schlenker hit one of two free throws and then after Wapakoneta got the ball, St. Marys was forced to foul and Megan Fisher drained two more free throws to secure the game.
“One possession,” Miars said. “That is what we have been trying to tell the girls. When you play a good team it comes down to rebounding or a turnover and that is why you have to take care of the ball every single possession.”
Fisher and Lexi Jacobs led the balanced Redskin scoring effort with 13 points each. Sarah Pothast added 11 points.
Cisco, playing her final home game, finished with a game-high 17 points. Taylor finished with 10 points.
Allen said it is time to regroup and prepare for Ottawa-Glandorf.
“Obviously our girls were tired,” Allen said. “We went into overtime Tuesday night. We had a tough one here so now we are going to have to figure out how to regenerate here a little bit and comeback and try to catch a share of the title.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter @JoseNogueras1