BATH TOWNSHIP – Coming into the postseason Bath had lost its last three regular season games but the Wildcats shook off their late season losses to post a 48-40 victory over a determined Delphos Jefferson team in its Division III boys basketball sectional opener Wednesday night.
With the win, Bath improved to 11-12 and travels to Lima Central Catholic in the sectional final at 6 p.m. Saturday. Jefferson ended its year at 7-14.
“It was nice to play a scrappy Delphos team and sometimes we have trouble against those types of team so we were happy to grind it out and get a win and move on to the next round,” Bath head coach Adam Burris said. “We had to reset and we had to get back on track and refocus and get ready for a new season.”
In a game where both offenses struggled to score it was Bath who came up with small runs to stave off the visiting Wildcats and eventually put it away in the fourth quarter. Bath never owned a double digit lead until the final eight minutes of the game.
In the final quarter, Jefferson found themselves down 44-31 with four minutes left in the game but made one last charge at Bath to slice it to six, 44-38 at the 1:34 mark but the home Wildcats held on to secure the win by.
“We just couldn’t put them away, Burris said. “We got it as much as 12 and they hit some threes to get it down to single digits. They were pesky and we had to weather the storm and make some free throws at the end which we didn’t do the best job of but made about 50 percent which is better than zero.”
The Wildcats were 7 of 9 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
Jefferson head coach Jordan Jettinghoff was proud of his team’s effort in the losing effort and credited Bath’s defense.
“They did a good job defensively keeping us out of the paint and even when we did get in the paint they had a little bit of length to bother us and we just couldn’t finish early on,” Jettinghoff said. “In the first quarter we had quite a few open shots that we missed and a lot of that I think was just nerves and settling down.
“We battled for four quarters and that is never an issue for us. We always play hard for 32 minutes we needed to find a way to put the ball in the hole a little bit more.”
Bath’s Jonah Wauben, who finished with 13 points, scored six in the fourth quarter. Wauben also grabbed 10 rebounds. Braydyn Flaherty was the team leader in scoring with 15 points and he and Wauben scored all of the team’s points in the fourth quarter.
Rebounding was also instrumental in Bath garnering the victory. The home Wildcats outrebounded Jefferson 34-21.
Burris said rebounding on the offensive end was effective but he is looking for improvement on the defensive end especially against an LCC squad that has some physical players who can hit the boards.
“On the defensive end we just don’t box out very well and we are trouble on Saturday if we don’t box out because they (LCC) are very good athletes and we have to answer the bell and find a body,” Burris said.
Bath opened the game with a 3-2 zone and early on it stymied the Jefferson offense who had trouble hitting from the outside. And by penetrating the Delphos’ defense, the Wildcats jumped out to a 14-5 lead with 2:54 left in the first period.
However, Jefferson closed out the first eight minutes on a 5-0 run when Ian Wannemacher popped a 3-pointer and Colin Bailey added a late bucket to slice the lead to 14-10 going into the second quarter.
Both teams struggled to score points in the second stanza and Bath maintained its advantage throughout period and went into halftime with a 23-17 lead.
“If we would have made a couple more outside shots it may have opened it up a little for us,” Jettinghoff said. “Colin (Bailey) hit a couple but if we had a couple of more to open it up a little it could have helped us out. I am proud of our players and proud of our seniors. They did a lot of good things for us for four years.”
Bailey, who had five 3-pointers, finished with 17 points.