Some well-executed full-court pressure defense by both teams was the story Friday night in an NWOAL girls basketball game between Swanton and Wauseon at Wauseon. The Bulldogs, down 41-40, could not get a shot off on their last possession, and the Indians added a pair of free throws from Rylee Campbell to seal the 43-40 victory.
It was Wauseon’s first win on the season, and it moved them even in the NWOAL at 1-1 in league play.
“We stressed that a ton this week that we didn’t want to get down 0-2 in the league,” said Wauseon coach Ashley Oyer on the win. “We are young, and we are still trying to find our way. We had one of our better players go out with an ACL (injury). We are trying to find our way kind of without her.
“At times we got shaken down the stretch but I was happy with the way we battled back and executed enough to win down the stretch.”
For Swanton, it was another close defeat, one that dropped them to 2-4 overall and 1-2 in the NWOAL.
“We wish we would get on the other side of one of these. We’ve had three of them now,” said Bulldog mentor Eric Oakes, referring to close losses at the hands of Patrick Henry, Fayette, and now Wauseon. “Someday, when we put the ball in the hoop (consistently), we are gonna be really tough. But right now we’ve just got to keep getting better.”
A turning point for the Bulldogs to get back into the game came early in the fourth, as Swanton’s Cydney Christensen began the period with a pair of free throws, then Lexi Sauber scored inside, thanks to a pass from Anna Marshall for Wauseon. But Swanton’s Haley Nelson scored on a drive to the hoop to reduce the Indian advantage at 35-28 with 6:11 left in the game.
Christensen and Kyleigh Ramlow each added two free throws as Wauseon’s lead was cut to three. It was primarily the Bulldogs’ pressure defense that enabled them to get opportunities on the offensive end.
“I thought we started off pretty good today. Running a lot of good things,” stated Oakes of his team’s defense. “The girls just seem to start clicking in, in that second half, for some reason. I think it was even more towards the fourth quarter there. If we can move it a quarter ahead each time with that pressure. And we just got to try to wear some people out.”
“I feel like we just got tentative. Instead of turning and going we just were hesitant,” said Oyer on her squad adjusting to Swanton’s pressure. “And we got a little close together as opposed to spreading out. Once we spread it out a little bit, we had easier lanes to attack gaps. That’s huge.”
Wauseon’s Jana Armstrong scored on a drive to the basket to push her team’s lead to 37-32 at the 4:24 mark, but Claire Leidigh of Swanton hit four straight free throws around one of two from the line by Wauseon’s Karli Penrod that made it again just a two-point edge.
Campbell responded with a corner jump shot for the Indians; however, Ramlow and Christensen went a combined three of four from the line, and the margin was 40-39 Wauseon with 1:15 remaining.
However, Swanton was set up with a chance to win the game as both Leidigh and Penrod split a pair from the line, and a missed one-and-one by Wauseon gave the Bulldogs possession with 18 seconds left and down by just one point. Ramlow advanced the ball into the front court but a host of Indians surrounded her, not allowing her to get a good look at the basket.
It was a stop that capped off an excellent defensive effort on one of the league’s best players who was held to eight points, with four of those coming at the foul line.
“Obviously, we know she is their go-to player,” explained Oyer. “So we just tried to deny her the ball as much as possible, and just try to fluster her and make other kids have to step up.”
Swanton did get another opportunity when the Indians missed a pair of free throws with four seconds left; however, the ensuing inbound pass was intercepted by Campbell. She was fouled, and her two foul shots were the last points in the game.
It was a neck-and-neck battle in the first half, most notably the opening quarter, where Wauseon’s Morgan Bzovi drilled a three pointer to break a tie and Swanton’s Sidney Taylor split a pair of free throws which made it 11-9 in favor of Wauseon after one.
The Bulldogs took the lead midway through quarter number two on a steal and score by Ramlow; however, a jumper by Wauseon’s Brianna Castellano, Marshall’s lay in, three more points for Castellano, and Sauber’s bucket with an assist from Bzovi with six ticks left gave the Indians a 22-15 edge at the half.
Wauseon was able to find some holes in the Swanton defense to start the second half, extending their lead in the third period by scoring the first six points. But, Swanton outscored them 9-5 over the final 4:02, and the margin was 33-24 heading into the last quarter.
Leading the Indians was Campbell and Sauber who each finished with eight points. Armstrong pegged seven for the Wauseon attack.
Swanton had the advantage in rebounding (20-17) and turnovers as they forced 25 Wauseon giveaways, which was three fewer than they had given up. But the Bulldogs shot only 29 percent (9 for 31) from the field to the Indians 51 percent (17 for 33).
Pacing Swanton was Christensen who finished with 12.
“We get her playing like that every game. Just playing hard, she is gonna improve quickly,” stated Oakes.
Nelson and Leidigh each finished with seven points.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010