OTTAWA — Shawnee found out what kind of a team it had Friday night.
Turns out, it’s one that can rally back from a 13-point first-half deficit, on the road in a difficult environment against a state-ranked team. The Indians, the top-ranked team in Division II, beat Ottawa-Glandorf, 58-52, and grabbed sole possession of first place in the Western Buckeye League.
“We were going to find out a lot about your mental toughness,” Shawnee coach Mark Triplett said he told his team at the half. “You come on the road and you get down like this against this type of basketball team, who just doesn’t lose home games. You’re going to find out what type of mentality you have.”
It proved to be a winning one, as Shawnee won its 40th game in a row, dating back to bowing out of the 2019 tournament.
Shawnee (15-0, 6-0 WBL) didn’t lead in the game until the 7:33 remained in the fourth quarter. It took the lead for good at the 5:15 mark and never relented, hustling for all four of its offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter to keep O-G from regaining the lead.
Brady Wheeler stepped up for 18 points, including eight in a pivotal fourth-quarter stretch. Shawnee outscored O-G 41-24 in the second half.
“George Mangas is an amazing talent, and I’m never going to play with a player like him again,” Wheeler said. “But when George was off a little bit in the first half, we had to pick him up. That’s what you do, you pick your brothers up when they’re down. We did that, and we came out with the win.”
It was a tough loss to absorb for Ottawa-Glandorf coach Tyson McGlaughlin, as his team did everything he thought it needed to do to win. The Titans (11-2, 4-1 WBL), ranked No. 4 in Division III, aimed to cut down on baskets in transition and appeared to do so, keeping Shawnee 12 points under its average offensive output.
“The part that hurts the most is our kids did everything we asked them to do,” McGlaughlin said. “And, unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough tonight.”
The Titans came out shooting well from beyond the 3-point arc, hitting four treys to open the game up with a 15-2 lead. That included back-to-back threes from Colin White.
In the first half, the Titans hit 55% of their 3-point shots, taking advantage of Shawnee’s decision to run a zone defense that opened up the deep shot. Those shots stopped falling so easily in the second half, as Shawnee increased its defensive intensity, with that percentage dropping to 42%.
Overall, Brennen Blevins led the Titans with 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Owen Nichols added 12 points. White had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“Statistically, we have some guys that can fill it up,” McGlaughlin said. “We were trying to take advantage of what we had.”
Shawnee’s rally began in the second quarter, when Wheeler had eight points and helped Shawnee on a 9-0 run to pull within four points. It proved to be a preview of the fourth-quarter comeback the Indians had, with the defense opening up opportunities.
“I thought when we started getting some stops, the confidence level on the offensive end picked up because of that.”
It’s a satisfying win, Wheeler said.
“We did claw back after a hard first half,” Wheeler said. “We have never been a fluke. Let’s put that on the record. We work hard every day in practice. These guys are my brothers.”