Van Wert’s Claire Butler attacks the basket in a game versus St. Marys earlier this season. Butler’s only two points of Van Wert’s thrilling win on Thursday night came in the decisive fourth quarter. (Times Bulletin file photo)
Van Wert’s Claire Butler attacks the basket in a game versus St. Marys earlier this season. Butler’s only two points of Van Wert’s thrilling win on Thursday night came in the decisive fourth quarter. (Times Bulletin file photo)

By Jim Cox

Times Bulletin Correspondent

FORT SHAWNEE - A game with 43 turnovers can hardly be called pretty, but Van Wert's 67-63 win over Shawnee Thursday night was about as exciting as it gets. The huge win puts the Lady Cougars at 6-2 for the season and 2-1 in the Western Buckeye League. Shawnee is now 3-5 and 1-2.

It was a game of many twists and turns, with the fourth quarter being the most frenetic. Van Wert had taken a 48-44 lead after three quarters, courtesy of baskets by Emily Bair, on an assist by Erin Morrow, at 0:26 and a buzzer-beating interception and layup by Morrow. However, the momentum took a sharp turn in favor of Shawnee to start the fourth.

Ali Quillen picked off a Cougar pass and turned it into a three-point play to cut the Cougar lead to 48-47. Two right-wing three-point field goals by the Indians' Claire Dahlke, sandwiched around two Morrow free throws, had the home team on top 53-50 with 6:16 left. Morrow fed Alexis Dowdy for a layup to cut it to one, but a Quillen free throw and Isabelle Baird layup had the Indians on top 56-52 at 4:23. Claire Butler's 10-foot angle shot was followed by Quillen's baseline drive and the score was 58-54 at 3:41.

After a scrum under the Cougar basket, the ball rolled out to Riley Jones, who picked it up and fired in a three-pointer from the right wing to cut the lead to 58-57. Both teams then missed front-ends at the line. Morrow rebounded the missed freebie at Shawnee's end, was fouled, and made both of hers to get the lead back, 59-58 at 2:49. That lead lasted 15 seconds as the Indians' Jaden Marlowe canned an eight-foot baseline jumper-and-one, then Quillen scored on an inbounds play with 1:38 left in the game and Shawnee held a 63-59 lead.

It was all Cougars after that, though.

Jones hit nothing but net on a jumper from the left elbow at 0:58. After an Indian miss, five-foot Cougar Kaitlynn Hall snared the rebound and went the distance before being fouled on her shot attempt. She hit only the first of two free throws to cut the Shawnee lead to 63-62 with 40 seconds to go.

Shawnee turned it over at Van Wert's end, and Dowdy scored on the ensuing inbounds pass from Morrow and Van Wert had the lead at 0:33. Shawnee misfired, and Morrow was fouled on the rebound. She calmly canned both free throws to provide a 66-63 edge with just 11 seconds on the clock.

Shawnee had a chance to tie, but a three-ball rimmed out, and Cheyenne Handy grabbed the rebound. With two seconds left, she hit the second of two free throws to provide the final margin.

Shawnee led 14-12 after one quarter, but Van Wert took charge in the second period, thanks mainly to Shawnee's 3-for-18 field goal shooting and eight points off the bench by the Cougars' Emily Bair. Van Wert won the quarter 20-6, led 32-20, and appeared to be in control - but wasn't.

Dowdy started the third quarter by muscling in a layup off of Morrow's inbounds pass, but then Shawnee suddenly turned red-hot. The Indians scored an amazing 13 points in less than a minute-and-a-half to trail by only one, 34-33, at the 5:46 mark. Jones's three from the right wing broke up the Shawnee run, but, with 1:24 left in the period, the Indians regained the lead at 44-43. A Hall free throw tied it again at 44.

It was a huge win for Van Wert coach Lance Moonshower, who didn't want to pick up a second league loss so early in the season. "We would've really liked to have gotten that one (against Ottawa-Glandorf) last Thursday, but when we lost that one, this one became really important," said Moonshower, who, as usual, maintained calm throughout the ordeal. "I can't remember the last time we beat these guys over here. It's a tough place to play, a really good team, and I feel really good about it."

The difference maker in this one had to be the free throw shooting. Van Wert was 18-for-25 (72 percent), led by Morrow's 10-for-12 performance. Shawnee only went to the line seven times, hitting four (57 percent). The Cougars also shot better from the field - 42 percent (22 of 52) to 38 percent (26 of 68). The Indians were better on the boards, 36-33, and had fewer turnovers, 18-25.

Jones, Morrow, Dowdy, and Bair led Van Wert scoring with 19. 18, 10 and 10. Dahlke and Rachel Evans had 21 and 16 for Shawnee.

Freshman Ally Jackson scored 22 points, including 12 in the final quarter, to lead the Van Wert junior varsity (2-6) to a 52-47 win. Cougar freshman Cassidy Sinning added 11 points. Dionna Lewis had 14 for Shawnee (2-6).

Score by quarters:

Shawnee 14 6 24 19- 63

Van Wert 12 20 16 19- 67

Shawnee (63) individual scoring

Dahlke 21, Evans 16, Marlowe 7, Herschler 5, Gronas 0, Rayna Magee 2, Quillen 8, Baird 4, Hughes 0, Rhea Magee 0.

Van Wert (67) individual scoring

Jones 19, Hall 2, Dowdy 10, Butler 2, Morrow 18, Moonshower 5, Handy 1, Bair 10.