Van Wert’s A.J. Smith drives while being guarded by Lincolnview’s Brooks Ludwig in the consolation game of the Van Wert Hospital Tip-Off Tournament Saturday. The Cougars downed the Lancers 59-35. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
By Kevin Wannemacher
Times Bulletin Business Manager
VAN WERT - A.J. Smith scored 23 points, and Joey Hurless added 19, as Van Wert rolled past county rival Lincolnview 59-35 in the consolation game of the Van Wert Hospital Tip-Off Classic Saturday night at Van Wert High School.
The two squads battled evenly for eight minutes, but the Cougars used a big second quarter run to take control of the contest.
With Van Wert leading 15-11 after eight minutes of action, the hosts opened the second stanza with a 14-3 run to break the game open.
Two Smith baskets, a Kyle Keber free throw and a Joey Hurless basket made it 22-11 Cougars, but Van Wert wasn't done.
After a three-point play from Lincolnview's Nick Leeth, the Cougars got two free throws by Smith with a Smith trey on the ensuing possession for a 29-14 advantage.
"We are a work in progress," noted Cougar head coach Dave Froelich following the victory. "We still have guys trying to learn to play together and learn their respective roles at this point. We were able to put some good minutes together tonight but we have to become more consistent in our level of play."
Lincolnview did close the gap to 31-18 at the intermission after a pair of free throws each from Leeth and Eli Farmer.
"It was similar to last night," commented Lincolnview mentor Brett Hammons. "We went through last night's (Friday) tape this morning and saw where we did a lot of good things in the first quarter and then what we didn't do as well in the second quarter. We had the same issues tonight and you can't have the lapses like that against quality basketball teams."
Van Wert ended any doubt in the outcome by opening the third quarter by scoring seven of the first nine points to push the margin to 38-20. The Cougars led 40-27 at the end three periods.
"We just have to keep working," Hammons continued. "It's a group of kids that is working very hard, and we will improve."
The Cougars continued to open the margin in the final period before settling on the 59-35 final score.
"A.J. and Joey are our two kids back and the play very well together," Froelich added. "Now we need to continue to work the other guys into the flow and get them more involved. We are still trying to build that chemistry and it is something we will keep getting better at."
Smith also led Van Wert on the boards with eight while Hurless dished out seven assists.
Leeth paced Lincolnview with 14 markers on the night, with Kade Carey chipping in six points and six rebounds.
The Lancers won the battle of the boards, 24-23, while the Cougars had fewer turnovers, 8-19. Van Wert was 23 of 43 from the field for 53 percent. Lincolnview hit 11 of 39 shots for 28 percent.
Van Wert will visit Ottoville in non-league action on Friday with Lincolnview opening Northwest Conference play Saturday at Lima Central Catholic.