SPENCERVILLE — The regular-season matchup in late January between Van Wert and Shawnee was a hard-fought battle.
Van Wert slipped out of that contest with a thrilling 39-37 victory.
In Tuesday’s Division II girls sectional semifinal basketball game at Spencerville, Van Wert claimed the lead over Shawnee in the first quarter, and took control the rest of the way for a 48-39 victory over the Indians.
Van Wert will face No. 2 seed Bath (19-2) Saturday in a sectional final, with tip-off set for 1 p.m. at Spencerville.
After Van Wert pulled out to a 16-10 lead by the end of the first quarter, the Cougars never trailed.
“It felt great,” Van Wert coach Hannah Phlipot said about Tuesday’s win. “We knew they picked us in the tournament draw. So, we knew there was some revenge they were looking forward to.
“That’s kind of been the girls’ motivation all week. … It’s one thing to do it (win) once. … It’s a lot harder to do it twice. So, it feels great to come out and prove that.”
Freshman Sofia Houg led Van Wert (7-16) and all scorers with 16 points, including two 3-pointers. Houg also came away with eight rebounds and two steals. Jaylyn Rickard had nine points, four boards and three steals. Freshman Kyra Welch added eight points, four assists and three steals. Jamison Clouse had seven points, 10 rebounds and two blocks for the Cougars.
Hailee Conrad led Shawnee (9-14) with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Trinity Gearing, a 6-foot-1 senior post player, had eight points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. Aaliyah Fowler added eight points and two steals for the Indians.
Neither team shot exceptionally well on Tuesday. Van Wert shot 35 percent from the field, while Shawnee connected on 31 percent of its field goal attempts.
It was a tightly-contested first quarter Tuesday, before Van Wert was able to slip out with the six-point lead by the first stop.
Rickard led the Cougars with eight first-quarter points.
Both teams struggled to handle the basketball in the first eight minutes. Shawnee turned it over seven times, while Van Wert had six miscues.
Gearing had four blocks for the Indians in the first stanza.
Van Wert pushed the tempo in the second quarter.
The Cougars’ largest lead was 14, 28-14. Welch and Houg both provided a spark for Van Wert as those two each scored four points in the second quarter, and ended the first half with seven points each.
Van Wert went into the locker room at halftime with a 28-19 lead.
The Cougars were 6 of 16 from the field in the second quarter. Shawnee struggled as it connected on 3 of 11 from the floor. For the half, the Cougars were 12 of 31. The Indians were 7 of 20 from the field.
Shawnee’s shooting woes continued in the third quarter. The Indians connected on just 3 of 11 from the field. The Cougars struggled as well, as they made just 3 of 15.
However, Shawnee kept it close.
With less than three minutes left to play in the game, the Indians cut it to 7, 43-36 on two free throws by Gearing.
However, Van Wert held off Shawnee down the stretch for the victory.
“We’ve talked all season about how we are going to have to win by committee,” Phlipot said. “We don’t have that one all-star. It can be anyone on any given night.
“We’ve been kind of waiting for Jaylyn (Rickard) to go off all season. She finally proved that for us tonight. Sofia (Houg) has just been consistent all season. For a freshman in a tournament game to show up like she (Houg) did, both offensively and defensively, I could not be prouder of her.”
For the game, Shawnee turned the ball over 23 times. Van Wert turned it over 15 times.
“They brought a lot of pressure to our guards,” Shawnee coach Rachel Rumbaugh said. “You have to give them (Van Wert) credit. They have some young girls in there, and they did a really nice job. We just didn’t handle their pressure very well.”
Van Wert controlled the boards, 38-32.
“We didn’t box out well,” Rumbaugh said. “They (Van Wert) really attacked the boards, especially at the beginning of the third quarter; and we just didn’t respond to that.”
Phlipot said her team has been playing at a higher intensity level, lately.
“We were a very tenacious group of girls tonight,” Phlipot said. “We created that culture at practice. We’re going after every loose ball.
“A big thing for us recently, is playing to the whistle. So, we’ve been trying to instill that during practice. We’ve really emphasized that the last couple weeks, and it’s starting to show.”
Defiance 33, Elida 31
Both teams got off to a slow start in Tuesday’s second sectional semifinal game at Spencerville.
However, toward the end, Defiance picked it up and came back to defeat Elida by two points.
Defiance (12-11) will face No. 4 seed St. Marys (17-5) Saturday in a sectional final with tip-off set for 2:45 at Spencerville.
Freshman Addisyn Freeman led Elida (11-12) with 10 points.
Carlee Smiddy led Defiance with eight points, six of those coming in the fourth quarter in which Defiance outscored Elida 14-7.
Defiance led 7-4 by the end of the first quarter.
Elida led 16-9 by the halftime break. Elida’s lead was 24-19 by the third stop.
Defiance came roaring back in the final eight minutes of action.
Defiance cut the deficit to 5, 28-23, early in the fourth quarter, on an inside move by Smiddy.
With 3:38 left to play, Defiance knotted the game at 28, on an inside shot by Tammy Aguilera (seven points).
Then with two minutes left to play, Smiddy gave her team a 30-28 lead, on a strong move to the glass.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.