TOLEDO — Down 37-28 with 3:17 left in the game against Wauseon, Elida needed some of that postseason mojo that had seen the Bulldogs pull off major upsets and a berth in the regional final.
It appeared they still had some of that magic left in the tank when Baylin Stinson, the team’s emotional leader, led the Bulldogs on a 10-1 run to knot the score and then take the led for the first time when Stinson nailed a short jumper to make it 40-38 with a 1:09 left. The thoughts of a possible trip to Columbus were dancing in the Bulldogs’ mind.
However, the Indians tied the score at 40 on two clutch free throws from Brooks Gype with 19 seconds remaining, and when Elida’s Daniel Unruh missed a buzzer beater at the end of regulation, the Bulldogs would need a little of that Elida effort to get over the hump.
But all that Elida’ energy to tie the lead apparently drained the Bulldogs of their mojo and magic and Wauseon outscored Elida, 14-5 in overtime to claim a 54-45 victory and a trip to the Division II state semifinals at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.
Elida head coach Denny Thompson called that a tremendous fourth quarter effort by his team to give the Bulldogs the opportunity in overtime.
“That was great,” Thompson said. “What more could you ask for after the start we had and then have a shot it to win to go to state.”
Thompson added that he thought Unruh’s late jumper was going to hit his mark but as was the case throughout the game, Elida struggled from behind the 3-point line. The Bulldogs were 5 of 21 from behind the 3-point arc.
For the game, Elida hit 32 percent of its shots.
“Elation is not even a word to describe it. It is so surreal,” Wauseon head coach Chad Burt said. “You feel no lead is ever safe especially in the regional finals. I thought we were playing well and doing some good things and all sudden, boy, Elida hit another shot and their big game players made some big plays but our big game players did too.
Wauseon’s big man, Austin Rotroff, pumped in five of his game-high 24 points in overtime and played a huge roll in the Indians establishing the early lead as he scored 10 of his points in the first period. The Indians’ cause was helped when Stinson was sent to the bench after picking up his second foul at the 6:02 mark of the first quarter.
But Stinson was instrumental in the fourth quarter to help jump start the Elida offense and defense and the junior inside man spearheaded the Bulldog spurt that saw Elida outscore Wauseon 20-10 in the fourth quarter.
Stinson scored a team-high 17 points with 13 of those coming in the fourth quarter.
Going into the fourth period, Wauseon owned a 30-20 advantage and had maintained a double-digit lead throughout much of the first three quarters as Elida could not find its offensive rhythm early in the game.
Thompson said when the Bulldogs went down early he had a choice to make and that was either stopping Rotroff or prevent their outside shooters from scoring.
“We went with something where we were going to take away their perimeter people, which we did, but we thought we could bring a quick enough body to the big kid,” Thompson said. “He established himself awfully well but having said that we held him to 19 points (in regulation). It wasn’t our defense, it was our inability to score obviously if you are going to score 10 points in the first half.”
Despite their anemic shooting in the first three quarters, the Bulldogs began to heat up with Unruh and Stinson finding their touch.
Unruh, who was a key member in the comeback, finished with 13 points for the game. But Unruh was erratic from the floor, hitting 4 of 15 from the field and 1 of 7 from behind the 3-point arc.
In addition to the inconsistent shooting, Thompson also pointed to the rebounding stats in which the Indians outrebounded Elida 35 to 25.
The loss ends a spectacular postseason run and a regular season that Thompson described as a roller coaster.
“How can you not look back and say ‘holy cow, what did we just accomplish,’ and still be disappointed ” Thompson said. “I told the guys to take no negatives from this. It’s OK to be disappointed but don’t take any negatives away from this. It is all positive in terms of what we were able to do. To be quite honest there is nobody in there (the locker room) that once the tournament started we didn’t think we could make the run.”