BATH TOWNSHIP — Sometimes it takes a rivalry game to bring out the best in a team.
Bath, which had three wins all season and riding a 10-game losing streak, upended cross-county foe Elida, 60-46, in a Western Buckeye League contest Friday night.
Bath finishes the regular season with a 4-18 mark and a 1-8 record in the league. Elida, which is on a three-game losing skid, end with a 6-3 record in the WBL and a 13-9 overall regular season record.
Bath head coach Shawn Allen said he has learned playing in the WBL that when you play a Lima based team that records are meaningless.
“Our crowd was the biggest we have had on both sides,” Allen said. “I think there was a lot of energy and our seniors were playing their last game. Even though we don’t talk about it a lot these kids know each other and you are playing for a lot because if you are senior you are not going to play again.”
Elida head coach Denny Thompson said this is the type of game that haunts coaches.
“This is a game that coaches have nightmares about” Thompson said. “There is nothing in this game that has repercussions with the league or standings so in my mind it comes down to a pride thing and they had more pride than we did tonight.”
Elida jumped out to the early lead when they opened up a 13-3 advantage with 1:30 left in the first quarter. But the Wildcats rallied to outscore 8-4 in the final minute and a half to close the gap to 17-11
One of the reasons for Bath’s comeback was the Wildcats throwing a 3-2 zone at the Bulldogs midway through the first quarter that seemed to stymie Elida’s offense.
The effectiveness of the zone slowing down the Bulldogs continuing in the second quarter the Wildcats began to chip away at the lead and by halftime the two teams were knotted at 23.
But the big swing came at the onset of the second half when Bath went on a 15-1 run and opened up a 39-24 advantage with 3:27 left in the third quarter. Elida would never recover from Bath’s offensive spurt and the Wildcats maintained the double-digit lead for the remainder of the game.
Thompson said the Bulldogs inability to score at the beginning of the third quarter was something that has plagued the Bulldogs the last two games in which they have lost. In their last two contest, Elida has averaged 44 points a game.
“It has been the same thing we have been fighting,” Thompson said. “We were in position to make scores and keep that thing right where it was but we missed passes. We missed open jumpers and we didn’t find people defensively. We lost focus as a team.”
In the decisive run, Bath’s Chad Frey, who shared top team scoring honors with Kaden Sullivan with 17 points each, recorded 10 points in the third period. Will Clark also produced two clutch 3-pointers in the third stanza to help Bath to a 46-30 lead at the end of three quarters.
Allen said he thought the difference is that his team made shots and added that he felt the zone defense stymied the Bulldogs.
“I thought after the first four minutes we jumped into that zone and stopped their aggressiveness and then we came out in the second half and stayed in it and we were able to make shots and they didn’t,” Allen said.
Elida’s Donte Johnson led the Bulldogs in scoring with 17 points. No other Bulldogs scored in double digits and the Bulldogs leading scorer, Daniel Unruh, was held to six points on the night.
With the victory, Allen hopes this is a springboard for his team as they enter the postseason.
“I told the kids before the game and I told them afterwards that this is the best time of the year because we have hope and life and faith,” Allen said. “As bad as things have been at times I would like to think we could duplicate some of this Tuesday night and see what happens.”
For Elida, Thompson said it is about getting over the hump and regrouping.
“We need to work on the things that are not getting done,” Thompson said. “To me the bottom line is, and you see it in a lot of different sports levels that if the kids want to be done they are going to be done. I am not saying our kids are. I’m just saying that you see teams go through things like this and they rally together and get over the hump.”
Thompson added that he is confident his team can put things together as they enter postseason play.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter @JoseNogueras1