LIMA — After watching Defiance hit a buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter and one at the end of regulation, Wapakoneta head coach Doug Davis was definitely concerned when the Bulldogs had another chance for a game winner at the end of overtime.
However, Defiance’s third attempt at a miracle was not the charm as Bulldog Mike Menendez’s lean-in 3-pointer lipped out of the rim at the end of overtime to allow Wapakoneta to escape with a 44-42 victory in a Division II sectional final Friday night at Lima Senior.
Wapakoneta (22-2) advanced to play Upper Sandusky in the district semifinals at Ohio Northern University at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday. Defiance ends its season at 12-11.
“I’m going to go in the locker room and tell them that is what the tournament is all about,” said Davis, who watched his team cut down the net after winning the sectional final. “Every one says it but it is true. “You have to fight and like this one we had to go into overtime and fight, but we move on and that is a positive.”
Defiance head coach Kirk Lehman said his team gave a tremendous effort against the higher seeded Redskins.
“It was a shame we just couldn’t make one more play,” Lehman said. “It would have been nice to have another timeout but with the ball in Mike Menendez’s hands, I will take my chances.”
Teams are learning that Wapakoneta has trouble with the zone defense so it was no surprise when Defiance came out with the 2-3 defense and the move paid off as the Redskins had trouble finding an offensive rhythm all night long.
“It affects us a lot,” said Davis about the zone defense. “We keep seeing zones all the time anymore. Not a lot of teams are playing us man-to-man lately. It has been a struggle and we are going to have to work on it.”
Davis added that he doesn’t know if Upper Sandusky will utilize the zone but he said the Redskins have to do a better job of attacking the basket.
“We tried different things but they did a good job of covering up what we were doing,” Davis said. “We would get passes inside but not much penetration to the basket.”
But it was Wapakoneta’s defense that has been stellar through the year that kept the Redskins in the game as both teams found points hard to come by throughout the contest.
“Our defense has been really good lately,” Davis said. “We got guys that cover up for each other and I think our defense has been the difference lately.”
With the score knotted at 22 at the 5:09 mark in the third quarter, Wapakoneta appeared ready to make its move when the Redskins went on a 10-2 run to gain their biggest lead of the night, 32-24 with two minutes remaining in the period.
But Defiance countered with six quick unanswered points, highlighted by Easton Gerken’s 3-pointer from slightly past halfcourt line as the clock hit zeroes, to slice the lead to two, 32-30, going in the final period.
The game remained tight throughout the fourth quarter. The Redskins had several chances to ice the game in late in the fourth quarter but missed three out of four free throws down the stretch and with 4.4 seconds lead, held a 38-36 lead.
On the inbounds pass, Gerkens tried to repeat his buzzer beating performance by launching a 3-pointer from the corner, but the ball bounced off the rim. However, Defiance’s Josef Kanouh grabbed the rebound and stuck it back in the basket as the horn blew to send the game into overtime.
In overtime, Wapakoneta elected to stall for the majority of the extra period and then at the 1:40 mark Aaron Good popped a 3-pointer. Kanouh’s responded with a bucket to slice the lead back to one, 41-40. The Bulldogs, forced to foul, sent Good back to the line who promptly sunk two free throws.
Defiance got the deficit back to one after scoring on their ensuing possession and then they sent Good back to the line. After missing the first one, the Redskin sophomore hit the second one to give Wapakoneta the 44-42 lead and set up Defiance’s last shot attempt.
Wapakoneta’s Nick Schoonover, who hit six clutch treys, finished with a team-high 18 points. Good, who had all six of Wapakoneta’s points in the overtime period, chipped in 14 points.
Kanouh pumped in 14 points for Defiance and Tyler Goings chipped in 11.
Upper Sandusky 68, Kenton 67
Upper Sandusky’s Wes Vent scored a game-high 29 points, including eight points in the fourth quarter to help the Rams hold off the Wildcats, 68-67, Friday night.
Kenton ends its season with a 15-10 mark.
In a game that saw Kenton playing catch-up in the second half, being down as much as eight after three quarters, the Wildcats continually made runs to overtake Upper Sandusky. But every time Kenton made a run at the Rams and tried to take the lead, Vent was there to score a basket.
“He (Vent) has been through these battles before and he knows when we need a point he is going to go get the ball and score,” Upper Sandusky head coach Jeff Winslow. “It is always nice to have a guy like that on your side.”
For Kenton, which came up one point short, it was a tough loss to swallow.
“In the fourth quarter, hand’s down, we were confident we could make a run,” Kenton head coach Mike McCullough said. “We just came up short.”
Kenton’s Hunter Phillips, who sat most of the first half in foul trouble, finished with 17 points and Thomas Phillips added 16 points. Trent Hites chipped in 12 points and Jaron Sharp followed with 10 points.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter @JoseNogueras1.