(DHI Media/Pat Agler)
(DHI Media/Pat Agler)

VAN WERT - It was a battle of a pair of teams with identical 21-3 records and 32 minutes wasn’t enough as Wayne Trace and Ottoville squared off in girls Division IV district championship action at Van Wert High School Saturday evening.

However, the Big Green defense blanked the Raiders in overtime as Ottoville survived with a 34-31 victory to claim a district championship and move on to the regional tournament Thursday night at Elida High School.

The Big Green got a late basket from Kasey Knippen to send the game into the extra session and Haley Hoersten’s basket in overtime was enough to send the Big Green on to the next level.

“I told the girls yesterday that it was going to be like playing ourselves,” commented Big Green head coach Dave Kleman. “I told them that again today too. Wayne Trace is just like us. They play tremendous defense and they do a lot of the same things we do. Offensively, they do a lot of things very similar to us and we both play a physical game. It was two very good basketball teams.”

Nicole Knippen provided the only other point in the overtime, hitting one of two free throws with 28.3 seconds left. Wayne Trace would not get a shot off in the final seconds as the Big Green defense kept the Raiders from generating any offensive opportunity.

“This was two teams that both played hard and played great defense,” said Wayne Trace head coach Bethany DeJarnett. “I am proud of our girls’ efforts. They left everything on the floor tonight and I couldn’t be prouder of this basketball team.”

It was a defensive struggle throughout the contest as the two teams combined to score only ten points in the opening quarter.

A basket by Kaylee Shepherd helped give Wayne Trace a 6-4 lead at the end of one period.

“The game was very physical and it was the way it was called all night,” Kleman continued. “Both teams played hard and there was a lot of contact but I thought it was a clean game too. Kids from both teams went to the floor but both teams showed great sportsmanship all night long.”

The Raiders took an 11-7 advantage with 4:45 left in the first half before the Big Green responded.

Ottoville closed out the first half on an 11-5 run, highlighted by five points from Brynlee Hanneman and four points from Nicole Knippen. Alexis Honigford and Kasey Knippen also added baskets as the Big Green took an 18-16 lead at the midway point.

Quarter number three saw Ottoville expand the lead to 25-20 as the Big Green defense limited Wayne Trace to four points in the period.

However, Wayne Trace rallied in the fourth.

A Katrina Stoller foul shot followed by two Sadie Sinn free throws pulled the Raiders within 25-23 at the 5:55 mark.

Following two Kasey Knippen foul shots, a Claire Sinn basket cut the Wayne Trace deficit to 27-25 with 5:02 remaining in regulation.

Claire Sinn then picked up a pair of free throws with 4:10 left to tie the game at 27-27.

After neither team could score on their next possessions, Wayne Trace took the lead with 2:02 on the clock as Katrina Stoller connected on two free throws for a 29-27 advantage.

The Raiders stretched the margin to 31-27 on two Claire Sinn foul shots with 1:13 remaining but Ottoville quickly responded.

Haley Hoersten came up with a huge play for the Big Green, driving to the basket and hitting a layup at the 1:03 mark to keep Ottoville within 31-29.

Following a missed Raider free throw, the Big Green would come up with a big play to send the game into overtime.

Kasey Knippen scored on a tough bank shot over the Raider defense with nine seconds on the clock tie the contest at 31-31 at the end of regulation.

“I just told her go score,” Kleman said after the contest. “She is capable of creating and finding a way and she did that.”

Nicole Knippen led the Lady Green with ten points while also grabbing six rebounds. Kasey Knippen chipped in eight markers and four steals while Brynlee Hanneman added five points and seven boards.

Alexis Honigford finished with four assists, two steals and three rebounds as well for Ottoville, which improves to 22-3.

Kaylee Shepherd played her final game in a Lady Raider uniform, tickling the twine for nine points while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out a pair of assists.

Katrina Stoller added nine points, two rebounds and two steals with Claire Sinn bucketing six markers while posting two steals and hauling in seven boards.

Rachel Stoller chipped in five markers for Wayne Trace, which ends the season with a record of 21-4.

Sadie Sinn, another Raider senior who played in her final game, finished with two points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal.

Shepherd, Sadie Sinn and Sara Edwards wore the Lady Raider uniform for the final time in their careers.