Van Wert’s Kyle Keber passed the ball to a teammate while being guarded by a pair of Bath defenders in a game at the Cougars’ Den Friday. The Wildcats defeated Van Wert 61-49. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
BY JIM COX
Times Bulletin Correspondent
VAN WERT - Sometimes it's just a matter of hitting - or missing - shots. That was the case Friday night as Lima Bath shot 51 percent from the field while Van Wert hit only 35 percent, allowing the Wildcats to leave town with a hard-fought 61-49 win. Bath is now 11-2 overall and 4-0 in the Western Buckeye League. The Cougars are 7-5 and 2-2.
The pattern was set in the first quarter, with the visitors taking an 18-8 lead, while shooting 8 for 12 from the field as the Cougs were going 3 for 15. It was an uphill climb from there for Van Wert, and, although they got within two in the second quarter and within four in the third, the Cats fought off each challenge.
Van Wert started the second quarter with a 9-1 run on a Kyle Keber layup, a Matt Bidlack layup, a nifty baseline drive/layup by AJ Smith, a Bidlack up-and-under layup, and a Caleb Markward free throw.
That got the Cougars within two at 19-17 with 3:59 left in the half. However, the Wildcats countered with the next eight points to lead by ten, 27-17, and they still held a 31-22 lead at the break.
A magical spinning scoop shot by Hurless got the Cougars within 39-35 with 3:06 left in the third period, but Bath ended the quarter on an 8-2 run, capped by a Logan Rockhold three-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer. That gave the Wildcats a 47-37 lead going into the final period, which allowed them to pretty much dribble out the game and shoot free throws. Bath shot only two times from the field in the last eight minutes, while hitting 8 of 12 free throws, which was more than enough.
The athletic Wildcats feature an aggressive, physical defense, which the Cougars handled well. "They're a good defensive team," said Van Wert coach Dave Froelich. "They've got five athletes at five spots.They have constant pressure. It's difficult to attack, but I thought we attacked it pretty well. We got it to the right spots, but we missed good shot opportunities."
Statistics back up Froelich's conclusion. The Cougars had only ten turnovers in the entire game, but they made only 18 of 52 field goal tries (35 percent). Bath had even fewer turnovers, six, and canned 21 of 41 field goal attempts (51 percent). Van Wert had one more rebound, 28-27, and shot a tad better from the stripe - 69 percent (11 of 16) to 64 percent (16 of 25).
"We cut it to two and then we go down ten; we cut it to four and we go down 11," added Froelich about the Cougars' inability to hit shots. "We just can't let that happen, because when it's a two-point game we can defend it a little differently. When we're down ten we have to chase them, and it's to their advantage. That's been the story of our season. We're inconsistent."
Only two of Van Wert's 18 field goals - treys by Connor Holliday in the third quarter and Smith in the fourth period - came from outside the paint. Hurless had a hand in 13 of the Cougars' 18 fielders - seven assists and six baskets. The tireless point guard was Van Wert's only double-digit scorer with 22. Bath, on the other hand, had its typical balanced attack, getting double digits from Connor Rockhold, Taren Sullivan, Logan Rockhold, and Colin Gossard with 19, 14, 11, and 11. Only five of the Cats' 21 baskets came from outside the paint. "I was concerned defensively, how we matched up with them, and they exploited us because of what they can do at all five spots," said Froelich. "It's a tough matchup for us. They got the lead and they spread it. We didn't want that to happen, because there's always a mismatch with their quickness and their ability to handle it at all five spots. They took advantage of what their skill set is."
The Van Wert jayvees (11-1) won a thriller, 49-46 in overtime. Bath started the second half with a 23-8 run to turn a 22-15 deficit into a 38-30 lead with three minutes left in the game. The Cougars, however, ended the fourth quarter with some key steals and a 10-2 run to send the game into overtime, 40-40. Nick Keber, Joey Moreland, and Drew Myers led Van Wert scoring with 15, 9, and 9. Point guard Michael Smelser had 7 points, all of them in the overtime. Cam Jenkins had 14 for Bath.
Score by quarters:
Van Wert 8 14 15 12 - 49 Bath 18 13 16 14 - 61
Van Wert (49)
Markward 0 1-2 1, Smith 3 0-0 7, Hurless 6 10-13 22, Holliday 3 0-0 7, Wolford 2 0-1 4, Kyle Keber 1 0-0 2, Bidlack 3 0-0 6, Nick Keber 0 0-0 0, Smelser 0 0-0 0, Ray 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 11-16 49. Bath (61)
Connor Rockhold 7 5-8 19, Chambers 2 0-0 5, Logan Rockhold 5 0-1 11, Gossard 4 3-5 11, Sullivan 3 7-9 14, Baxter 0 1-2 1, Atkins 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 16-25 61.
Three-point field goals: Van Wert 2 (Holliday, Smith), Bath 3 (Chambers, Logan Rockhold, Sullivan).