Swanton jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the early going and when the final seconds ticked off the clock, that was the difference in the game as the Bulldogs defeated Wauseon 29-23 at home Friday night.
It was the program’s first win over Wauseon since the 2014-15 season.
“They’ve pounded us for so many years. To be on the same plane with them for one night is really rewarding. We knew it would be a low-scoring game. We’re good defensively, they’re good defensively. Neither team lit it up offensively, but we got enough plays down the stretch to hold them off,” said Swanton coach Bruce Smith.
“For years they’ve been one of the heavy hitters in the league. To get this win is big for us,” he added.
The Indians had whittled what was once a double-digit Swanton lead down to just two in the fourth quarter. The line read 25-23 Bulldogs after a cherry-pick hoop for Wauseon’s Jude Armstrong with 1:40 to go.
However, Swanton was able to salt it away with Cole Mitchey’s four free throws in the final minute. He was 6 for 6 from the foul line in the fourth, while the Dogs went 7 of 8 as a team in the frame.
“If there was a hula hoop up there we wouldn’t have scored, so those free throws were huge,” joked Smith.
“I thought it was a classic NWOAL barn burner and bruiser,” noted Wauseon coach Chad Burt. “I thought Cole Mitchey really stepped up for them and made some plays (in the fourth quarter). Unfortunately we weren’t able to make enough plays down the stretch. So, I tip my cap to them for sure.”
Burt and Smith are very familiar with each other’s coaching styles. They used to match wits when Smith coached at Southview prior to his time in the NWOAL.
“I got a ton of respect for Bruce,” stated Burt. “His game preparation is awesome. Obviously, he’s got them playing very well and very hard right now. Like I said, a lot of credit goes to him because he had them very well-prepared tonight.”
“In order to beat Wauseon you’ve got to be better than them, you’re never gonna outcoach him (Burt),” said Smith. “He’s super prepared, his kids do exactly what he wants them to do. I’d like to think our program is kind of like that too. At least for this night, I guess the best team won — for this particular night. Fortunately we don’t play them over there, so, we’ll see them in a year.”
The Dogs led 6-0 following a pair of layups by Sam Betz and Luc Borojevich’s jumper. After a Jonas Tester made shot for the Indians, Nic Borojevich hit one for Swanton to take an 8-2 lead into the second stanza.
Swanton also went on an 8-2 run in the first 4:06 of the second to get their lead to 16-4. Mitchey scored six of those points, Luc Borojevich added a basket off a steal, while in between Tyson Rodriguez scored for Wauseon.
Tester responded with a three-point play, Wauseon’s Matt Shaw added a bucket in the paint, but Swanton’s Hayden Callicotte made a putback at the second quarter horn and the Dogs led 18-9 at the break.
Swanton led by 11 (22-11) following 1 of 2 at the line by Mitchey with 1:29 left in the third, but then some three-point shooting got the Indians back in it.
The long range shots came from Rodriguez, who hit one apiece near the end of the third and in the beginning of the fourth. Then Landon Hines’ hoop pulled them within 22-19, forcing the Dogs to call timeout.
“He came in, he’s ready to go,” said Burt of Rodriguez’ contributions. “He gives us a little scoring punch off the bench. He hit a couple big threes, got us right back in it. It was nice to see him step up and score for us.”
The margin remained at three, 24-21, with exactly four minutes on the clock after free throws by Mitchey and Armstrong. Luc Borojevich added a free throw 46 seconds later, putting the margin at four.
Mitchey led the Dogs with 13 points and Luc Borojevich added eight. Rodriguez had eight to lead the Indians.
Swanton (14-1, 3-0 NWOAL) added a 36-33 win at Genoa the next night, while Wauseon (8-7, 1-1) fell 64-53 at Rossford.
The Dogs are at Clay Tuesday to square off with former coach Joel Visser, then they visit Liberty Center on Friday. Wauseon is off until hosting Evergreen Friday and Springfield on Saturday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010.