If there ever comes a time where there is a Woman’s Professional Football League, Delta’s Reagan Rouleau will be a corner or free safety picked in the first round.
Rouleau did her best Stephon Gilmore imitation, stealing four fourth quarter passes and converting them into points against Wauseon’s delay tactics, to help give the home Panthers a 37-34 come-from-behind win in the first night of league play in the NWOAL Thursday.
“We kept our composure well,” Panther veteran coach Ryan Ripke said. “No one ever panicked. They definitely grinded out this win.
“Reagan really stepped up in the fourth quarter obviously. She’s a smart basketball player, she is mentally tough.
“She is one of those girls that can do a lot of different things. She can get to the basket, she can hit a three, she plays good defense, and she has at times been a good rebounder when we need her to be.”
Early on Braelyn Wymer knocked down two first quarter three-pointers and Rouleau added another to give the Panthers an 11-6 lead after eight minutes.
However the Indians – who had a huge rebounding edge all night – used a putback that turned into a three-point play from Delanie Roush to knot the game at 11-11 with 6:28 left in the half.
The teams traded hoops until the 3:33 mark when Brooklyn Green bagged a deep triple for a 20-17 Panther advantage.
Marie Hutchinson claimed the lead for Wauseon, when she scored on a feed from Sydney Zirkle with 2:29 to go, at 21-20.
Sam Aeschilman’s triple with just under a minute on the clock pushed the Tribe’s margin to 24-21 at the break.
Wauseon’s lead got as big as 30-25 on a pair of free throws from Marisa Seiler with 2:29 left in the third, before settling for a four-point lead, 30-26, entering the fourth.
That was when the Indians pulled the ball out and began their attempt to milk the clock.
Three minutes later, Hayley Meyer took a dish from Autumn Pelok inside to give the Indians their biggest lead of the night at 32-26.
“They had worked a lot of the clock before we could make an adjustment,” explained Ripke. “There was a timeout, and we made a couple of moves defensively to tell our girls that we have to get the ball back and amp up the pressure.
“We got much more aggressive and started jumping the passing lanes on the skip to the opposite side. It was one of those things where our girls had to jack up the intensity. They started stalling really early compared to what we were thinking so we had to pick it up sooner than we thought to counter that.”
That’s when Rouleau began her acts of thievery, and brought the Panthers back.
After Khloe Weber split a pair from the foul stripe, Brooklyn Wymer and Rouleau each jumped a passing lane, that led to Rouleau hitting two free throws after being fouled, then a one-on-one move to slice the Indians’ lead to 32-31.
Zirkle’s baseline power move pushed Wauseon back up three, but Weber’s baseline drive again got the Panthers within one with 1:57 to go. Rouleau picked a Wauseon pass on the next possession and Weber split a pair after going to the rim to bring the Panthers even at 34-34 with a 1:44 left, then 20 seconds later she struck again with a steal and breakaway layup to give Delta the lead for good.
Green had a chance to extend the lead with 36 seconds left but misfired from the line.
However, one last time, Rouleau picked a Wauseon pass and canned 1 of 2 free throws with six ticks left.
Rouleau’s four steals were part of nine Wauseon fourth quarter turnovers, and 27 the Indians committed for the game. Delta had 14.
Wauseon had a massive 28-7 advantage on the glass.
“We HAD been rebounding the ball a lot better,” said Ripke. “Maybe since the second half of the Fairview game. But I know it’s one of those things that we struggle rebounding the basketball and they had a couple or three offensive rebounds in the first three possessions of the game. I was really disappointed from the get-go in our effort and our concentration.
“But obviously forcing that many turnovers, that is definitely a plus. I didn’t expect it would be that many, especially because we didn’t press a whole lot.”
Rouleau’s 12 points led Delta, while Seiler had 10 for the Indians.
Reach Joe Blystone at email@example.com