(DHI Media/ Pat Agler)
(DHI Media/ Pat Agler)
PAULDING — Depending upon which side you were on, the last quarter of Friday night’s Division IV sectional final was memorable textbook basketball or eight forgettable nightmarish minutes. Kalida scored the last 16 points of the game to turn a 32-25 deficit into a 41-32 win over Parkway.

The 2nd-seeded Wildcats (18-5) will advance to an Elida district semifinal against 4th-seeded Wayne Trace at approximately 8:00 (second game) Tuesday night. The Raiders beat 3rd-seeded Ottoville 74-44 in Friday night’s second game.

Eighth-seeded Parkway’s season ends at 12-12. It was the final high school basketball game for Panther seniors Mason Baxter, Jack Wehe, Preston Stober, and Nick Riley.

Parkway started the game on a roll and led 18-11 after one, but from then on it was an offensive struggle for the Panthers. Ditto for the Wildcats until the fourth period. Parkway led 30-25 after three, and the last period started with two free throws by Baxter to lead 32-25. That’s when the roof fell in on the Panthers.

Missed shots and turnovers mounted up for Parkway, while everything clicked for Kalida. Senior Trevor Lambert swished a six-foot baseline floater to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game — 33-32 with 4:02 left.

Kalida junior Gabe Hovest then stole the ball, and, although his layup was blocked, the ‘Cats got the rebound, and senior Owen Recker drained a three from the left wing, Kalida’s only 3-pointer of the game, to up the margin to 36-32 at 1:16.

Parkway then turned it over again, and it was only a question of whether or not the Wildcats could hit free throws. They could, and they did — 5 of 6 in the last minute to seal the deal.

“I think it’s more mental than anything else,” said Kalida coach Ryan Stechschulte. “We were too amped up (in the first quarter), it being our first tournament game. We blew assignments. They got some easy looks. Once we settled down, especially there in the fourth quarter, we really locked in, made them shoot tough shots, and the big key was the rebounding. They weren’t getting second chances.”

“They (the Wildcats) are a really good basketball team,” said Parkway coach Doug Hughes. “We got off to a really good start. I thought we executed the game plan well through three quarters. Then I don’t know if fatigue set in. I thought we had really good looks that we’ll make most of the time, then there were three or four other trips where we turned it over, then another three or four trips where I wasn’t really happy with our shot selections. We were outscored 16-2, and that’s difficult to take.”

The Panthers hit 8 of 12 field goal tries in the first quarter, including 3-pointers by Wehe and junior Corey Walls, and the lead was once as big as eight at 16-8. It was 18-11 after one. However, that was not at all indicative of things to come.

The defenses clamped down in the second period, but Kalida managed to win the quarter 8-4 to close the gap to 22-19 at the half, mainly behind Lambert, who had 13 points in the first 16 minutes.

The third quarter, too, was a slog for the offenses, won by Parkway 8-6 to stretch the lead to 30-25.

Kalida out-shot Parkway from the field — 44 percent (15 of 34) to 31 percent (13 of 42). Both teams were ice-cold from three, but the Wildcats didn’t try many — 1 for 8 compared to the Panthers’ 2 for 16. Kalida was deadly from the line — 91 percent (10 of 11) — while Parkway shot very few — 4 of 6 (67 percent). The ‘Cats had a rebounding edge, 23-20, and each team had 10 turnovers.

“We had a night where we didn’t shoot it (the 3-pointer), there’s no doubt about it,” said Stechschulte. “We’ve got kids who are really good shooters, but if they’re not comfortable, they’re not gonna shoot it. They’ve really bought into let’s take a great shot every time down, because when we do that we’re really hard to guard.”

Kalida used seven players, and only the five starters got into the scoring column, led by Lambert and Recker with 19 and 9. Parkway also used only seven players, six of whom scored, led by Stober and junior post Caleb Kinney with 10 and 8.

“You can learn a lot about life through athletics,” said Hughes. “It’s not always easy, but you have to stay the course. When you stay the course, good things will happen, and that was the case with this group. I’m extremely pleased with the way we played together. I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a team that’s this unselfish. This is the true definition of a team.”

Parkway (32)

Dylan Hughes 2, Mason Baxter 4, Jack Wehe 3, Preston Stober 10, Caleb Kinney 8, Corey Walls 5, Caden Slusher 0.

Kalida (41)

Trevor Lambert 19, Owen Recker 9, Evan Roebke 2, Luke Erhart 7, Grant Laudick 4, Zach VanderEmbse 0, Gabe Hovest 0.

Parkway 18 4 8 2 - 32

Kalida 11 8 6 16 - 41

3-point shooting: PW 2/16 (Wehe, Walls), K 1/8 (Recker). Rebounds: PW 20, K 23. Fouls: PW 13, K 9. Turnovers: K 10, PW 10.