SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — This season has been a year of heartbreaking losses for Van Wert as they have lost five games by two points this season. On Friday, the Cougars reversed that trend and picked up a thrilling 60-55 victory over Shawnee in a Western Buckeye League clash Friday night.
With the win Van Wert improves to 2-4 in the WBL and 10-6 overall. Losers of three straight, the Indians dip to 2-4 in league play and 7-9 for the year.
“We have been in five two-point losses and I am still trying to wrap my mind around that but telling our guys that we are going to be situations like that again it is going to pay and I think our guys kept their composure and made enough plays down the stretch to flip the script and instead of being on the losing end we were on the winning end of a very competitive basketball game,” Van Wert head coach Ben Laudick said.
Van Wert’s Aidan Pratt had himself a double-double night as he put up 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Pratt was one of a trio of Cougars who scored in double-digits with Carson Smith adding 14 points, including eight in the pivotal fourth quarter and 13 from Garett Gunter who had seven in the final period. The three Cougars combined for all of the points scored by Van Wet in the final eight minute.
“Most games when we have two or three guys in double figures the outcome is usually in our favor,” Laudick said. “Aidan Pratt has been our guy consistently and we have had other guys pick up the slack throughout the year and in order for us to do the things we would like to do this year we have to continue with two or three or four guys scoring in double figures.”
For Shawnee, Austin Miller, who came off the bench, led the Indians with 16 points and Beckett Bertke chipped in 13 points.
Van Wert came out like a team on a mission and opened the contest with an 8-0 run but by the time the buzzer had sounded to end the first period, Shawnee had sliced the lead to 16-13 on the strength of an 11-4.
Shawnee kept the momentum going in the second period as they went on a 14-5 run to open up a 27-21 lead with 3:41 left in the first half. But as was the trend in this game, Van Wert stormed back to cut the lead to 29-27 going into the second half.
Neither team made a major move in the third period and Shawnee held a 44-40 lead with eight minutes left in the game.
At the onset of the fourth quarter, the Cougars scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to regain the lead, 46-44, with six minutes left on the clock. This was the first lead for the Cougars since the second quarter.
Down the stretch, Van Wert made the clutch shots and played tenacious defense to prevent Shawnee from regaining the lead and secured the win. In the fourth period, Shawnee shot 3 of 11 from the field. Van Wert was 8 of 13 from the field and 5 of 8 from the free throw line.
“There a resilient group,” Laudick said about his team. “We were sharing the basketball really well in the first quarter and in the second quarter we got a stagnant a little bit and they ramped up and they played with a little more sense of urgency in the second quarter. We were slow to get back on the defensive end at times. They are a really good transition team and if you don’t stop their transition you are going to be in for a tough night.”