OAK HARBOR – Swanton struggled to score throughout much of the game against the taller Woodmore squad, falling 53-42 in a Division III girls basketball sectional semifinal at Oak Harbor Tuesday night.
Playing shorthanded – with two girls out and another at less than 100 percent – the Bulldogs fell into an early 11-0 hole which was tough to overcome.
“I’m proud of them. It’s hard,” said Swanton coach Eric Oakes. “We are down really three girls. Gracie (Oakes) gave it a try. Probably wasn’t ready to go. For us to go full-court man-to-man like we did, I’m really proud of the girls giving that effort.
“They kept fighting. They kept battling. They got down again in the second half and kept battling. Woodmore hit some shots. Hit their free throws.”
Woodmore’s Nora LaMunyon scored five straight to begin the game, then Jordan Nighswander added four around a pair of free throws from Claire Rothert for an 11-0 Wildcat lead nearly six minutes in. Following a Bulldog timeout, they would cut it to 13-5 by the end of the quarter with five points from Averie Lutz and a Nighswander basket in between.
The second quarter was much more even.
LaMunyon went coast-to-coast for a layup to kick off scoring in the period, however, an Aricka Lutz three-pointer and Averie Lutz bucket reduced Woodmore’s lead to five at the 5:31 mark. Two more Swanton triples by Frankie Nelson and Averie Lutz countered two points each from Ava Beam, LaMunyon and Nighswander to keep the margin at five with under four minutes to go.
Then, Averie Lutz converted a steal into points, cutting it to 21-18 and prompting a timeout from Woodmore coach Kyle Clair. Whatever was discussed in the timeout seemed to work, however, as the Wildcats went on a 9-0 run to end the half.
The ensuing Wildcat possession resulted in a four point swing as Katie Brugger scored on a reverse layup and was fouled. Her free throw attempt missed, but 6’0” center Brooke Allen was there for the putback.
“The big key was obviously, they’ve got the two big girls (Nighswander and Allen) inside. That’s what we were focused on,” explained coach Oakes. “We just didn’t do a very good job in spurts, of keeping them off the boards. And that increased the lead there in that second quarter when we got hot and started battling back. Then we give up a few easy putbacks, second chance points.”
Nighswander added a long-range deuce, Brugger split a pair of free throws, and Nighswander went backdoor for a hoop to give the Wildcats a 30-18 lead at the half.
Swanton went scoreless over the final three minutes of the first half. That scoreless streak continued until the 3:42 mark of the third period when Jessica Dohm went one of two from the foul line.
Oakes credits Woodmore’s zone defense and length inside to the Bulldogs’ struggles offensively.
“That mentally has an effect on our girls. Even thinking about trying to drive the ball in there,” he said. “We need to stop and hit those 10-footers. But again, Woodmore I think (was) a little bit more physical.”
The Dogs got eight second half points from Ashlynn Waddell off the bench, including six in the final stanza, as they tried to erase an 18-point deficit. Her floater cut it to 48-40 with 1:54 remaining. However, they could get no closer before the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Aricka Lutz and Nelson led the Bulldogs with 10 points apiece while Averie Lutz added 9.
Nighswander finished with a game-high 18. LaMunyon and Brugger chipped in 11 for the Wildcats.
Swanton will graduate four seniors of this year’s team, but the future looks bright. Many of their key contributors will be back.
“They got to do a little bit on their own,” said Oakes on looking ahead to next season. “Get out in the driveway and shoot free throws. This is by far the worst free throw shooting team I’ve had in four years. Just get out and do a little bit on their own. They are good girls. We get them healthy again, I don’t see why we can’t get back to the way we like it. Get up and down the floor.”
Swanton closes the season at 13-10.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010