Wapakoneta Redskins senior Sara Warner (15) dribbles the ball Thursday in a Western Buckeye League varsity girls basketball game against the Shawnee Indians at Shawnee High School. (Staff photo/Brad Frank)
SHAWNEE — The Wapakoneta Redskins twice had to survive after surrendering two large leads, once in each half, but they led virtually the entire game and prevailed in the end.
The Redskins managed a 65-60 win Thursday over the Shawnee Indians in varsity girls basketball action, in the Western Buckeye League opener for both teams.
Wapak’s final points of the third period at 1:19 gave the team a game-high 19-point lead, 51-32.
Over the next six minutes, however, the Indians came to life, able to bite into Wapak’s lead with the use of a full-court press Thursday.
Shawnee reduced its deficit from 19 to five, 58-53, after a bucket by Rhea Magee at 3:12 left in the game.
Two key sequences in the final minutes of the game provided Wapak enough of a cushion to hold onto its lead.
The Redskins scored four unanswered to lead 62-53, as Sara Warner and Morgan Miller each sank two free throws, but Shawnee’s Isabelle Baird kept the game within reach by sinking a 3-pointer at 1:34.
The following possession, Redskins sophomore point guard Maddie Stiles kept her dribble alive throughout the duration of Shawnee’s press, eventually finding Megan Watt for a short jumper to put Wapak up by eight points, 64-56, with 1:09 left in the game.
With 20.4 seconds remaining, Stiles hit the second of two free throws to put Wapak up seven, 65-58, to effectively seal the win.
Shawnee did score with 12 seconds left to shrink the deficit to five, 65-60, but applied its next foul with only three seconds remaining and Wapak ahead by two possessions.
“We showed moments of pretty good basketball and then I think we showed moments of playing scared basketball,” Wapak varsity coach Rusty Allen said. “As a coach I’ve got to calm myself down and understand I only have a sophomore point guard, a sophomore post and a freshman guard.
“At times we’re not going to have the greatest of decision-making on the floor,” he said. “What frustrated me the most was the ill-advised passes that we made. It’s something we stress in practice that we didn’t do real well.”
Wapak also gave up a huge lead in the first half Thursday.
The Redskins opened the game with a 16-2 advantage with 27.2 seconds remaining in the first period, with help from junior post Carly Buzzard’s nine points.
At 1:21 before halftime, the Indians had already cut their deficit to two possessions, trailing 24-18.
Wapak scored four points to hold a 10-point halftime advantage, 28-18.
The Redskins came out scorching in the third period, scoring 23 in the quarter after posting jump 28 points at halftime.
“Once we slowed the game down in our minds and didn’t let Shawnee force us to speed it up, we got some good looks,” Allen said. “We played our basketball, and then the floodgates opened.”
Shawnee’s rally included a 26-point fourth period.
“I give Shawnee a lot of credit. They came after us and kept coming after us. They kept scrapping and didn’t give up,” Allen said. “(Shawnee varsity coach) Paul (Moss) is doing a good job with them in terms of getting them to play hard. They’re going to win some ball games.”
Allen believes some poor decisions, specifically ill-advised passing, contributed to Shawnee’s comeback in Thursday’s game.
“We weren’t really running our press break. I don’t know that we really resembled a press breaker for awhile,” the coach said. “Those are things we can work on. We showed flashes of brilliance, so we know we’re capable of that.”
Warner tallied 15 points in the second half to finish with a game-high 21.
Buzzard finished with 19 points after scoring 13 at halftime.
“We could have done a better job, but Shawnee combated that with ball pressure,” Allen said.
Claire Dahlke and Marysaa Herschler each had 11 points to lead Shawnee. Ali Quillen added 10.
Wapak shot 46 free throws in Thursday’s foul fest. The team converted 26 of them to shoot 57 percent.
The Redskins (2-1) moved to 1-0 in the WBL with Thursday’s win.
Their next game is Tuesday in non-league action against the Allen East Mustangs.
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