Owen Treece of Van Wert shoots over Elida defenders on Friday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)
Owen Treece of Van Wert shoots over Elida defenders on Friday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)

VAN WERT —Friday night’s game in the Cougar Den started off as a basketball game, but soon turned into duel for the ages, as Owen Treece and Quan Moore found themselves trading blows in an effort to will their team to victory. Treece and the Van Wert Cougars brought the game down to the wire, but found a way to get the best of Moore and the Bulldogs in a 67-60 victory.

Treece bounced back about as well as he possibly could from a seven point performance on Tuesday night in a blowout loss to St. John’s by dropping 34 points and getting the Cougars back into the win column.

“It was a great effort by our guys tonight,” said Van Wert Head Coach Ben Laudick following the game. “Anytime when you can get a win against a league opponent on a Friday night we’ll take it, because winning games in the WBL isn’t easy.”

Although it was in a losing effort, Quan Moore put on an impressive 28 point performance. Isaac Manley finished as the Bulldogs second leading scorer with 16.

The opening minutes of the game exhibited the exact opposite premise of Murphy’s law. What could go right for the Cougars would go right for them, and in the first, Van Wert could do no wrong.

Owen Treece and Keaton Brown combined for all seven points of a 7-2 run to open the game, which forced Elida Head Coach Denny Thompson to take a timeout before his players had even broken a sweat.

Out of the huddle, Riley Creps settled down the sideline by hitting a three and pulling the Bulldogs back within two, but the Cougars were coming with double the intensity, and there was no stopping them.

Treece sunk two freebies on his second trip of the night to the free throw line, and Jake Hilleary followed by hitting triples on two straight trips down the court. Hilleary would finish the game with three 3-point field goals on his way to being Van Wert’s second leading scorer with 16 points.

“I think Jake Hilleary in the past three or four games has really taken some positive steps forward for us,” said Laudick. “He’s shooting with confidence, and he’s starting use his big frame the way we want him to.”

All of a sudden the Cougars were up 15-5, and were exerting some of the best energy that they’ve had all season.

Even when Moore broke the run up with his first points of the night, Van Wert ripped off eight straight points on triples by Treece and Colin Place, and a bucket by Parker Conrad.

When the first quarter ended, the lead had ballooned all the way to 23-9.

The home team made it rain in the opening quarter, but Elida had weathered the storm and were ready fight their way back into the thick of things.

The Cougars would maintain a strong lead through the second, but the Bulldogs would inch closer and closer as time went on.

Elida opened the second on a 13-2 run thanks to four points a piece from Moore and Manley, two from Dylan Buetner, and a three ball from Tyler Long.

As fast as Van Wert opened up their lead, they nearly gave it all back in the same amount of time.

“We fell in love with the outside shot, and you’re not always going to make those,” Laudick said. “Once we got past that and started attacking more, we got some guys to the free throw line and some easy points to get that confidence back.”

Fortunately for the Cougars, they had another huge first half spurt up their sleeves as they snapped off a 10-5 run to close things out on top 35-27 at the end of two.

Out of the break, the two teams traded buckets for each of their first three possessions before a Treece triple brought the score to 44-33. On the next Van Wert possession, Brown buried a floater to bring the difference all the way up to 13.

Moore hit two free throws, followed by three Treece free throws, and then the Bulldogs went off for the last six points of the quarter.

Creps’ three and Buetner’s two brought the score to 49-41 at the end of three.

The fourth quarter saw Quan Moore go off for 13 points, and nearly bring his team all the way back. The visitors brought the game within one point at 50-49, but Owen Treece came through for the Cougars when they needed him desperately, something he often does.

Treece scored two straight times, and Hilleary drilled his third triple of night, and in the blink of an eye, the Cougars were back up by eight at 57-49.

The lead hung tough for the home team, and although it wasn’t always pretty, Van Wert did everything they needed to do to win the contest.

Eight of the game’s final 15 points came from the free throw line, and the Cougars held their ground despite numerous comeback attempts from Elida.

When the time on the clock had finally run out, the game belonged to the home team, winning by a final score of 67-60.

Van Wert is now 5-13 on the season, and 2-5 in the WBL. The Cougars will take the court again on Saturday night when they host the St. Henry Redskins.

BOX SCORE 1 2 3 4 T

ELIDA 9 18 16 17 60

VAN WERT 23 12 15 17 67

ELIDA (60)

Dylan Buetner 6, Quan Moore 28, Riley Creps 6, Tyler Long 6, Isaac Manley 14.

VAN WERT (67)

Owen Treece 34, Keaton Brown 7, Nate Jackson 1, Parker Conrad 6, Colin Place 3, Jake Hilleary 16.