VAN WERT – Van Wert has endured a tough first half of the schedule but it appears the Cougars are turning things around after beating Lima Central Catholic 61-57 to notch their third straight victory in a non league affair Saturday night.
With the win, Van Wert improves to 4-9 on the season. LCC falls to 9-7 for the year.
Van Wert head coach Ben Laudick described this game as the team’s biggest victory of the year.
“All our wins our big wins but I would say this is our biggest win of the season easily,” Laudick said. “We are on a three-game winning streak and earlier in the year we were on a big losing streak. Our guys are excited for what is to come next week and we are still working and wanting to do things that we want to do at the end of the season.”
LCC head coach Frank Kill said his team left its defense in the locker room at halftime.
“There was no sense of pride,” Kill said. “Lima Central Catholic prides itself on defense and we literally bag of tricks in the locker room. We had zero motivation to play defense. We finished the first and second quarter on a positive note and we thought it was over. That is why you play 32 minutes and unfortunately we only played half a game.”
Entering the second half, LCC owned a 31-22 advantage at halftime after going on a 7-0 run to end the first 16 minutes.
But it was Van Wert that garnered the momentum by going on a 9-2 run to open the third quarter and tie the score at 33-33 at the five minute mark and for the remainder of the period and by the time the buzzer sounded Van Wert held a 45-40 lead after a 3-pointer from Owen Treece.
A quick 6-0 run to open the final period gave Van Wert a 51-42 lead and then the Cougars went into a 2-3 zone and it continued to provide offensive headaches for the Thunderbirds who made several charges to catch them but Cougar composure and time eventually did LCC in.
Treece led the Cougars with 18 points but it was the contributions of sophomores Aiden Pratt who had 15 points and Garrett Gunter who added 12 points that helped the Cougars to the win. Pratt scored 12 of his points in the third quarter and Gunter had all but two of his points in the final two periods.
“Ethan Brown (eight points) and our sophomores are coming along and there has been some growing pains but they are starting to come along and score and we are starting to get some spacing on the floor and it is helping us out,” Laudick said. “Aiden’s stock is going up right now. He did a really good job and we told him that he has to be a force inside and that will open up things on the outside a little bit.”
“I am disappointed in our effort tonight because I did not think we came out in the second half and gave it our all,” Kill said. “Offensively I thought we had moments of really good movement andthen other times when we had the ball just stop and I call those ball stoppers and when you play a team like Van Wert you have to move.”
In the first half, LCC’s DeMar Foster did a great job of penetrating the lane and dishing off to his teammates underneath but that seemed to disappear in the second half.
In addition to the stagnation on offense, LCC was without the services of starter Evan Unruh who was injured in the first half.
Laudick said he challenged his team at halftime to up its defensive intensity.
“We were upset with our guys at halftime because their quickness was a problem for us this year and we challenge our guys that we have to keep them in front and they accepted that challenge,” Laudick said. “We didn’t do it perfect all the time and then we threw that zone at them a little bit and it got them to stand and if they stand they can’t attack the basket.”
LCC’s Meshaud Moore scored 14 points and Ryan Hines added 12 points. Rossy Moore, the team’s top scorer was limited to 10 points and never really found his touch.
“We had no movement,” Kill added. “We wanted to do it the our we instead of the team way and we just didn’t have any flow and I thought we missed some shots that were in and out and that is game of basketball and you have go on the road and play the game of basketball.”