BY JOHN SNODGRASS

Times Bulletin Sports Editor

sports@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT - Van Wert went 3-for-3 from behind the arc to open Friday evening's game at The Den and cruised from there, taking a 59-43 victory against Western Buckeye League rival Lima Bath.

"I was pleased with the start and, obviously, when a couple of shots go in it makes everybody look good," Cougar coach Dave Froelich said. "It just jump started us a little bit because we're not a great shooting team. It gave us a little burst."

Josh Bolenbaugh hit a pair of 3s sandwiched around a Jacob Bagley trey to give the Cougars a 9-0 lead after four offensive possessions. The Wildcats struggled to regain ground for the remainder of the game, but never could. Bath (3-6, 1-1 WBL) never got closer than four points for the rest of the game as the Cougars' defense held the Wildcats in check.

"Our kids did a pretty good job," Froelich said of the Van Weft defense. "They're (Bath) a penetrate and kick team and overall we did a pretty good job of limiting their penetration and we did a really good job of staying home on shooters. We didn't want to lose (Brad) Davis and we didn't want to lose (Johny) Simindinger on the perimeter. They didn't get very many and if they did they weren't backbreaker shots."

In fact, the Cougars (4-4, 2-0 WBL) held Simindinger and Davis to just five points combined - all five scored by Simindinger.

Following the 9-0 Van Wert run to open the game, the Wildcats answered with buckets by Dre White and Terrence Pollard to bring the Panthers to within five. The two teams exchanged baskets for the rest of the quarter as the Cougars took an 18-12 lead into the second frame.

Not much changed in the quarter prior to halftime as both teams struggled offensively. The Wildcats outscored the Cougars 10-8 in the period with Bagley accounting for six of Van Wert's markers - the Cougs' other two points came on a pair of Evan Hammons foul shots. White scored half of Bath's points during that frame. A late bucket by the Cats brought the Columbia Blue and Gold within four at the break - 26-22.

Van Wert wasted no time in opening the second half with a bang. The Cougars poured out a 9-4 run that forced Bath coach Doug Davis to take a timeout with 3:20 to go in the quarter. At that point his team trailed 35-26. On Bath's next possession Chase Foster was fouled attempting to shoot a 3-pointer. He made all three free throws to close the Cats within six - 35-29 - but another Cougar rally down the stretch gave Van Wert a 42-31 victory with one period remaining.

In the fourth quarter, it was all Cougars as Van Wert outscored Bath 17-12 - once again, White did most of the damage, scoring five.

The quarter's turning point came with 5:13 to go when the Bath bench was whistled for a technical foul. Bagley missed both free throws but came off a nice set play on the ensuing inbound to lay one up and in for Van Wert. Just over a minute later (4:07), the Cats were hit with a second technical when Josh Runda was called for his fifth and final foul while attempting to secure an offensive rebound. This time, Bagley hit both free throws and Van Wert took a 50-34 lead. At that point, the game's outcome was no longer in doubt.

Van Wert went 12 of 23 from the line (52.2 percent). Despite the less-than-perfect performance, Froelich was pleased with the Cougars' ability to get to the stripe.

"That's important and that's been a big stat for us over the years - really making more free throws than our opponents attempt," Froelich said. "But now we've got to make those. We got there tonight, and that was good, but we've got to convert a little bit more."

Bath went 12 of 18 from the line (66.7 percent), with White leading the way with a 6 of 11 performance. Bagley was 5 of 10 from the line for Van Wert.

Bagley led all scorers with 20 while Brady Dunlap added 10 and Hammons eight, for the Cougars. White scored 14 for the Wildcats with Foster contributing 13. Runda had nine before he fouled out.

In all, only five players scored for Bath.

"Our kids did a good job of taking away their initial surge," Froelich said. "And then forcing them into taking, maybe taking not as good a shot as they would like. If we can do that, then we've got a chance. It was a good win for us."