Van Wert’s Connor Holliday dribbles the ball past Ottoville’s Derek Schimmoeller in a game at Ottoville High School Friday. The Cougars came away with a 43-37 win. (Times Bulletin/Brian Bassett)
By Brian Bassett
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
OTTOVILLE - For more than three quarters during Friday night's non-conference boys basketball contest, the Ottoville Big Green gave the Van Wert Cougars all they could handle.
The teams battled to a tie at 28 to end the third quarter before the Cougars got a big three pointer from senior forward A.J. Smith to give them a cushion which they later turned into a 43-37 victory.
"I thought we did a great job, defensively," explained Ottoville coach Todd Turnwald. "The kids did a great job executing our game plan. It just came down to executing at the end - little things like rebounding and foul shots."
The Big Green came out and attempted to slow the game down on the offensive side of the ball, and did, shooting only 29 times and holding Van Wert to 30.
Van Wert was 13 of 30 (43 percent) from the field, including 7 of 15 on two-point field goals. Ottoville actually shot better on the night, making 14 of 29 shots (48 percent). The difference came from three-point range and the free-throw line. The Cougars made 11 of 17 free throws (65 percent) and 6 of 15 three pointers (40 percent), while the Big Green shot 8 of 13 (62 percent) from the charity stripe and 3 of 9 (33 percent) from long range.
"It's disappointing because I thought we put ourselves right there to win a game, and just came up short," Turnwald said.
The Cougars opened the game with a three from junior guard Kyle Keber, and turned the early lead into an 11-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Big Green went 3 of 6 from the field in the second quarter, including three-pointers from senior guard Ryan Honingford and junior forward Luke Schimmoeller to help close the Ottoville deficit to four, 20-16, at the half.
Luke Schimmoeller drove and scored to open the third quarter, then hit a jump shot to tie the game at 20. The rest of the quarter was back and forth, and Ottoville took a brief lead on a three from Honingford later in the frame. Van Wert countered with a layup from senior point guard Joey Hurless on the ensuing possession.
Hurless was assessed his third foul with 1:29 to play in the third, and junior forward Matt Bidlack picked up his fourth seconds later - leaving Van Wert short handed. Sophomore forward Brandt Landin split a pair of free throws after Bidlack's fourth foul, tying the game at 28 at the end of three quarters.
"That was big," Turnwald said of Ottoville's 80 percent clip from the field in the third quarter. "We've got some guys who really wanted the basketball. We tried to exploit some of their weaker defenders and make them guard the ball. We were able to execute a few things and it got us going."
Hurless hit a free throw to return the lead to Van Wert to open the fourth, but earned his fourth foul with 6:27 to play in the game. With Hurless on the bench with foul trouble, the Cougars went to their other senior leader, Smith, and he answered with a three-pointer to give Van Wert a 34-28 lead with 3:44 to play.
After a Landin free throw, Smith got another basket to give Van Wert a 36-29 lead with just over two minutes to play, forcing Ottoville to foul. The Big Green got a layup from senior guard Derek Schimmoeller to pull within three with 33 seconds to play, but Bidlack hit some key free throws down the stretch to put the game away, with Van Wert winning 43-37.
"I'm really proud of our kids. Van Wert is notorious for taking so many things away, offensively. We made some really good half time adjustments and the kids executed well in the second half, and scored some points," added Turnwald.
The Cougars outrebounded the Big Green 18-13, and committed nine turnovers to Ottoville's 15. Each team had seven assists.
Van Wert was led by Hurless, who had 13 points, two rebounds, two steals and three assists. Smith added 11 points and two rebounds, steals and assists, while senior center Nik Wolford led the team with eight rebounds.
Derek Schimmoeller paced the Big Green with 11 points, he added four steals. Ryan Honingford and Luke Schimmoeller each added 10 points.
With the win, the Big Green falls to 101 on the season, Van Wert improves to 2-1.
VAN WERT (2pt. 3pt. FT Tot)
N. Keber 0-0 0-0 0-0 0, Markward 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 2-7 1-6 4-6 11, Hurless 3-5 2-4 1-2 13, K. Keber 0-0 2-3 0-0 6, Bidlack 0-2 0-0 5-6 5, Holliday 0-1 1-2 1-3 4, Ray 0-0 0-0 0-0 0, Wolford 2-3 0-0 0-0 4.
Fischer 1-1 0-0 0-0 2, R. Honingford 2-4 2-5 0-0 10, D. Schimmoeller 3-6 0-2 5-7 11, A. Honingford 0-0 0-0 0-0 0, Landin 2-3 0-0 2-4 4, L. Schimmoeller 3-6 1-2 1-2 10.
Van Wert 11 9 8 15 - 43
Ottoville 6 10 12 9 - 37