WAPAKONETA — Coming into Thursday’s game against Wapakoneta, Kenton head coach Ryan Miller knew his team needed a victory if they were going to stay in the Western Buckeye League race after recording two losses in its first three league games.
Thanks to a tremendous defensive effort, the Wildcats kept the usually potent Wapakoneta offense in check and handed the Redskins a 59-50 loss.
With the win Kenton improves to 2-2 in the WBL and 8-3 overall. This is the first league loss for the Redskins (8-4), who fall to 2-1, and the team’s third loss in a row.
“This was a huge win for us,” Miller said. “Our girls are not giving up hope.”
With both teams playing smothering defense in the first half, Wapakoneta walked into the locker room at halftime up 24-21 and with the momentum.
But it was Kenton who came out in the second half with a lot of energy and a smothering defensive effort that helped the Wildcats go on an 8-0 run to open the third period and finish the stanza outscoring the Redskins 18-7.
In the pivotal, third quarter, Kenton forced three turnovers in the first minute and a half to not only garner the lead but jump start the Wildcats offense who scored points on transition as well as getting big buckets from Haylee Bushong, Layne Taylor and Kori Barrett who hit two by treys.
“That kind of sums are stretch right here,” Redskin head coach Rusty Miller. “We had unforced errors. It is not like they were putting a ton of pressure on us…they were doing some nice things defensively don’t get me wrong….but we just not taking care of the basketball.”
By the end of the third quarter, Kenton held a 39-32 advantage.
Maintaining its defensive intensity and solid free throw shooting helped Kenton stave off any Redskin offensive runs. Free throw shooting which has betrayed Kenton in its last two WBL games, came through in the fourth quarter after the Wildcats hit 10-of-13 from the charity stripe in the final eight minutes.
Taylor, who shared top scoring honors with teammate Ellie Miller with 16 points, was 6-o-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
While scoring only three points, Caitlin Tudor deserves credit for standing tall in the paint and forcing a number of turnovers by denying the ball to senior post player Sarah Pothast. Tudor who had a two-inch disadvantage grabbed seven rebounds and helped to hold Pothast to 10 points.
“We wanted to keep them off balance” Miller sand. “They have some great shooters on their team, We just wanted to make sure we kept them off balance and we changed up quite a it. We never quite went to fully to a man-to-man but we did some zone and we tried to space things out and I am proud of my post players they did a really good job on Sarah.”
Also credit the Kenton defense for not letting Redskin Lexi Jacobs for getting into an offensive rhythm. Even though finished with 15 points, the senior shooting standout was held to six points in the first half and no points in the third quarter. Jacobs connected a trio of treys in the fourth when Wapakoneta played catch-up.
“We are just trying to find some one to compliment Lex on the perimeter and right now we are struggling,” Miller said. “We have kids in the post that can score but you take the post away from us and deny Lexi … we just have to find someone to step up and knock down some shots for us.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter at @JoseNogueras1.