WHITEHOUSE – Stale offensively, passive defensively, and down seven at halftime to Liberty Center, Swanton coach Joel Visser needed something to jump start his Bulldogs in a Division III boys basketball sectional semifinal at Anthony Wayne Tuesday.
Visser rolled the dice with a backside trapping defense and came up with a winner as his Bulldogs rallied to take a 48-41 victory to advance to Friday’s sectional final against Archbold.
“We had to pick up our sense of urgency,” Visser explained. “We’ve been a little flat-footed, not getting the close outs on shooters, so at halftime we just made a decision to go run-and-jump.
“I felt like we needed to force something out of our kids on the defensive end – fortunately it paid off. In a seven point game and to come out in something we don’t do very often and give up some layups and then all of a sudden we are talking 12 (point game). I kind of felt like we were making a gamble but we needed to.”
Part of that decision was influenced by 11 first half Bulldogs turnovers that hampered them on the offensive side and created extra opportunities for the Tigers.
Liberty Center shot just 8 for 25 in the half but had a 22-15 lead thanks to Austin Like’s seven points and six more from Brady Gerken.
That all changed in the first 45 seconds of the second half as Visser’s trapping “D” forced three straight LC turnovers.
Jared Wilson got to the rim after the first, drawing a foul and splitting a pair from the line 13 seconds into the quarter, then turned a steal into a three-point play 11 seconds later.
After the third Tiger miscue, Josh Vance scored on a turnaround jumper to chop the Tiger lead to 22-21.
Like got behind the press for a bucket-and-one, and Gerken scored a second chance hoop to get the Tiger lead back to 27-21. Then it was Gerken again with a three-point play with 3:23 left in the stanza to restore the Tigers’ seven point halftime lead, 31-24.
But from that point, with the Tigers getting into deep foul trouble, it was all Bulldogs as Swanton put together a nine minute 23-7 burst.
Andrew Thornton’s jump stop hoop and Dylan Gilsdorf’s drive and bank got Swanton back to 31-28 at the end of the third, then Randy Slink stuck a put back to get them within a point with 7:27 left.
Like’s triple from the left wing momentarily put the Tigers up four but Hunter Mix scored in the post, and Thornton scored inside from Wilson to give the Bulldogs their first lead since the first quarter with 4:55 to go.
Camden Krugh’s spinning drive that turned into a three-point play gave the lead back to the Tigers with 4:30 on the clock but between Slink and Thornton, the duo scored 10 straight Swanton points, all inside to boost the Dogs into a 45-37 lead with 1:15 left.
“They shared the ball with each other a couple times,” Visser said of his pair of players inside. “And credit Andrew Thornton. He did not have a good game for two and a half quarters or so. And as a freshman in a tournament game he had kind of a gut check and made some big buckets late, finding people for a couple of assists, I mean that is big time stuff so I’m really proud of him.”
During that fourth quarter the Bulldogs were 8 of 9 from the field, while the Tigers shot just 3 of 15.
Thornton had 12 points and Slink 10 to lead Swanton, now 7-16 on the season.
Like had 13 and Gerken 11 for the Tigers who bow out with a 3-20 record.
Reach Joe Blystone at email@example.com