SPENCERVILLE — Somebody shrunk the floor.
That’s how it must have looked to Wapakoneta during the second half of Bath’s 40-36 win over the Redskins in a Division II girls basketball sectional championship game at Spencerville High School on Saturday night.
The Wildkittens (18-5) trailed much of the first half against a team they beat by 12 points during the regular season. But in the second half they used defense to frustrate Wapakoneta.
Bath coach Greg Mauk left no doubt defense made the difference.
“Guard somebody,” Mauk said, when asked what his team did in the second half that it hadn’t done in the first two quarters.
“In the first half we gave up five shots in the lane where we had no idea where the ball was, no idea where the player was. We got ourselves lost and gave them some easy shots which allowed them to hang around,” he said.
“It was just a matter getting them (Bath’s players) to re-focus on what we needed to do defensively. We guarded like crazy, we held them to four points in the third quarter. We had them on their heels because we finally started playing like we could play defensively.”
Wapakoneta led by five points, 20-15, with 1:40 left in the first half before Bath cut the margin to 20-19 by halftime.
It wasn’t just defense that Bath was struggling with in the first two quarter. The Wildkittens connected on only 27 percent of their shots (6 of 22) in the first half.
Wapakoneta was able to take only seven shots in the first 10 ½ minutes of the second half against Bath’s re-energized defense.
The Wildkittens led by four points, 28-24, after three quarters and were up 40-31 with less than a minute to play before Wapakoneta made a late run.
Senior post player Emily Ruhe led Bath with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Annie Henderson’s 11 points led Wapakoneta (12-12).
Bath will play Van Wert at 6:15 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Division II district tournament at Paulding. Celina, which defeated Shawnee 65-36 in Saturday’s first game at Spencerville, will play Wauseon at 8 p.m.
Bri Smith, a 6-foot sophomore, who scored 7 points in the first half, played a big role in keeping the Wildkittens close until the defense kicked in, Mauk said.
“She came off the bench and gave us a lift we needed, not just scoring but she made a couple passes. What a great lift she gives our team. She started out the year playing a lot of varsity (before going to the JV team). She was coming off a shoulder injury,” he said.
Shawnee got to its sectional final matchup with Celina by hitting 15 3-pointers in a 65-61 win over Elida in a first-round sectional game.
But against Celina (21-2) the Indians ran up against a team that could shoot the three, defend the three and do a lot of things well.
The Bulldogs built a 29-16 halftime lead, then started the second half with a 16-4 run to put the game out of reach. Their lead hit 33 points in the fourth quarter before Shawnee (10-14) closed in a little at the end.
“At halftime we talked about how important the third quarter is, to not come out and go to sleep. We wanted to get out and get after them a little bit,” Celina coach Brian Stetler said. “We were able to get them a little tired, we’re a little deeper than they are.”
Celina got 16 points from Kylee Bader, including four 3-pointers, and 15 points from Emily Bihn. Post players Katie Stahl and Beth Homan combined for 21 points and 11 rebounds, with Stahl getting 12 points and 7 rebounds.
Abby Waddle (11 points) and Britt Lauck (10 points) led Shawnee.
The Indians shot only 32 percent on field goals (12 of 42) and were held to four 3-pointers.