WAPAKONETA – Asked which player he thought stepped up on Friday and Elida coach Denny Thompson pointed out one not on the roster.
“Mr. Free Throw had a real nice game for us,” he said.
And while it may have been a joke, it was also pretty dead-on accurate.
Elida sunk 7-of-8 free throws in the final 1:16 of a close game to edge host Wapakoneta 47-43 in a Western Buckeye League boys basketball game. The win set both teams’ WBL records at 1-1 while Elida moves to 3-6 overall and Wapakoneta falls to 4-5.
Elida made 8-of-9 shots from the stripe in the fourth quarter and 18-of-23 total in a game in which offensive execution was tough on both sides.
“I wasn’t surprised when I looked up in the fourth quarter and it was 37-35 (at the 5:48 mark with Elida trailing),” Thompson said. “That was the (final) score of our Defiance game. It’s difficult to execute offensively in the WBL because people know each other so well. Making free throws in a game where points are hard to come buy was a big factor.”
Elida senior guard Austin Allemeier was also a pretty big factor, scoring a game-high 21 points, including six points in a key spot late. Trailing 39-38, Allemeier hit a bucket at the 2:11 mark to put his team up 40-39 and Elida didn’t trail the rest of the way. Allemeier sunk 4-of-4 free throws on Elida’s next two possessions.
“We’ve struggled shooting from the field and all week we knew free throw shooting was going to be big,” Allemeier said. “Our big men did a great job of setting good, hard screens and freeing us guards up. We were able to get to the bucket and the line.”
Other than an early 2-0 lead, Elida trailed the whole game until the 3:43 mark of the fourth quarter when Jazz Howell hit a shot to put the Bulldogs up 38-37. Elida outscored Wapakoneta 17-11 in the fourth quarter.
Wapakoneta jumped out to an 18-10 lead after the first quarter but scored just 25 points the rest of the way.
“In the first quarter, we had that mentality: Attack, attack, attack,” Wapakoneta coach Doug Selvey said. “Then we got the lead and I thought we kind of backed off. This is the WBL, nobody is going to quit out here. From an execution standpoint, we didn’t execute well.”
Adam Henderson led Wapakoneta with 14 points and Corey Crawford added eight points. Clark Etzler added 11 points for Elida.
“Quite honestly, any win on the road in the WBL is a really big win,” Thompson said. “For us, we needed this. To keep ourselves in a position to have a say in the league, when you lose that second one, it’s tough. It’s not do or die, but it really puts you behind the eight-ball to get that second loss this early.”