Van Wert’s Alexis Dowdy pulls down a rebound in a game at the Cougars’ Den Thursday against Elida. The Cougars won the contest. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
Van Wert’s Alexis Dowdy pulls down a rebound in a game at the Cougars’ Den Thursday against Elida. The Cougars won the contest. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)

Times Bulletin Correspondent

VAN WERT - After Elida dominated the third quarter 18-5, Van Wert bounced back with a 20-4 fourth quarter to pull out a 59-55 win Thursday night. The Lady Cougars are now 6-6 overall and 1-3 in the Western Buckeye League. Elida is 6-7 and 2-2.

The Lady Bulldogs led 51-39 after three, but it was all Cougars after that. Livia Butler started the fourth period with two missed free throws, but she rebounded the second miss herself and laid it in to cut the margin to 51-41. After two more missed Van Wert free throws, Elida's Ashley Lowry escaped for an open layup, but the Cougs' Erin Morrow went on her own personal 7-0 run, hitting nothing but net on three shots, a trey from the right wing, a 17-foot left-side baseliner, and a 12-foot right-side baseliner - 53-48, Elida, with 3:53 left in the game. O'sha Owens scored on an inbounds play to push the lead to 55-48, but the Dogs wouldn't score again. Van Wert's Cheyenne Handy rattled home a trifecta from the right wing at 3:15 to make it 55-51. Three straight Elida turnovers resulted in three more Cougar baskets. A Claire Butler put-back, Morrow put-back of her own missed trey, Morrow open layup on a baseline drive made it 57-55, Van Wert, with 1:33 left. Owens missed two free throws at 1:16, the only Lady Dog misses in the game. Handy missed on a drive, and Elida rebounded but threw it away again. Alexis Dowdy swished two pressure free throws with 12.5 seconds left to seal the deal.

The first half was incredibly well played by both teams. There were six ties and five lead changes during those 16 minutes. The visitors had only four turnovers, the hosts three. Elida shot 50 percent (13 of 26) from the field and 100 percent (6 of 6) from the line. Van Wert shot 44 percent (11 of 25) from the field and 62 percent (8 of 13) from the stripe. Owens (13), Morrow (10), and Dowdy (10) had already hit double digits.

Owens, easily the quickest player on the floor, picked up her third foul late in the second quarter and went to the bench where she stayed for most of the third stanza as well.

Her absence didn't seem to hurt as Elida put it all together during the third eight minutes. The Lady Dogs hit 8 of 12 field goal tries in the third, while Van Wert went ice cold - 2 of 13. With Owens out, Elida got points from Sabrina Kline (4), Carly Stetler (2), Kylie Downton (4), Lowry (6), and Torie McAdams (2) to pile up a seemingly safe 51-39 lead going into the final quarter. That, however, didn't prove to be the case.

"We got tentative in that third quarter, and they got aggressive," said Van Wert coach Lance Moonshower. "They just took it to us. In the fourth, we had to pick it up. We had no choice. We switched defenses, went to a trapping defense, and it seemed to get our offense going. The girls never got down like they were out of the game. They just played a heckuva fourth quarter."

"The third quarter we played the way we know how to play," said Elida co-coach Chrissy Billiter. "The fourth quarter...we have a hard time finishing. We don't know how to finish games. The third quarter we had focus, we had patience, we did everything right. The fourth quarter we lost focus, we didn't do anything right, and Van Wert played well."

The Bulldogs' other co-coach, Elise Jenkins, lamented Morrow's big fourth quarter run. "We knew she (Morrow) was their shooter," said Jenkins. "Our girls just lost where she was. If you leave her open she's gonna knock down shots. She led their team at the end."

Another big contributor for Van Wert was sub Cheyenne Handy who hit a big three and also came up with a huge steal when Elida led 55-51. "Owens is a heckuva point guard, and she's tough to keep in front of you," said Moonshower. "That's one of Cheyenne's absolute strengths, her on-the-ball defense. When she digs in she's hard to get around. I think that really slowed them down in the fourth quarter. They couldn't get the dribble penetration that they got in the other three quarters, and a lot of that was Chey."

For the entire game, Elida was for more accurate from the field - 52 percent (23 of 44) to Van Wert's 38 percent (20 of 52), but the Cougars landed seven threes, the Dogs only one. Elida also shot much better from the stripe - 80 percent (8 of 10) to 53 percent (10 of 19). Van Wert had the edge on the boards - 27-24 - and turnovers - 9 to 11. Six of the Bulldogs' turnovers came in the fourth period, and that was crucial.

Morrow led all scorers with 21. Dowdy chipped in with 16. Owens, Lowry, Downton and Kline had 15, 12, 10, and 10 for Elida.

The much-improved Van Wert jayvees won 37-34 to run their record to 2-10. Emily Bair and Riley Jones had 11 points each for the Cougars. Skylar Hurst had 12 for Elida.

Score by quarters:

Van Wert 21 13 5 20 - 59 Elida 15 18 18 4 - 55

Van Wert (59)

Hall 0 0-2 0, Dunlap 0 0-2 0, Claire Butler 2 1-2 5, Morrow 8 2-2 21, Dowdy 6 4-5 16, Hulbert 1 0-0 3, Livia Butler 1 0-2 2, Moonshower 2 0-0 6, Handy 1 3-4 6. Totals 20 10-19 59.

Elida (55)

Downton 3 4-4 10, Kline 5 0-0 10, Owens 6 2-4 15, McAdams 1 0-0 2, Slusher 0 0-0 0, Lowry 6 0-0 12, Stetler 2 2-2 6, Smith 0 0-0 0, Kiel 0 0-0 0, Pauff 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 8-10 55.

Three-point field goals: Van Wert 7 (Morrow 3, Moonshower 2, Hulbert, Handy), Elida 1 (Owens).