Prepping for the game against the St. Marys Roughriders, Wapakoneta Redskins varsity coach Matt Bradley preached about needing to win the battle in the paint.
Trailing 24-22 at the half-time break, he delivered the same message.
The message must have sunk in as they Redskins sank the Roughriders, 63-49, Friday in Western Buckeye League action. With the win, the Redskins improve to 10-7 on the season and 3-3 in the WBL, while the Roughriders to 5-11 overall and 0-6 in the league.
“We talked at half-time about coming out and dominating the paint because we thought No. 44 (Quinn Zaerr) had his way with us in the first half — we just told them we have to win that battle in the paint,” Bradley said as Zaerr hit for 6 points and grabbed four rebounds in the first half. “I was really proud of how hard we defended for the whole night. We knew (Garet) Fledderjohann is a great player and we knew he was going to get his points, but we didn’t want (Austin) James or No. 44 go off. I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Fledderjohann proved Bradley right. Fledderjohann led all scorers in the game hitting for 25 points, scoring 11 in the first half by hitting three treys and 14 in the second half by hitting short jumpers and knowing down 5-of-6 from the free throw line.
The Redskins managed to limit Zaerr to 12 points on the night and kept James in check, limiting him to two 3-pointers — one in the second period and one in the fourth period after the game was already decided.
For the game, the Redskins also proved Bradley right by outscoring the ’Riders 26-16 in the paint and 16-6 in the paint in the second half. Senior posts Jake Buzzard, Travis Bertram and Kyle Gibson along with junior post Alec Temple managed to dominate inside in the second half, while Zaerr scored all six of St. Marys second half points in the paint.
While Bradley wanted the game to hinge on the play in the paint, Buzzard turned the momentum by opening the second half by hitting two 3-pointers. At the 7:46 mark, he hit a jumper from the top of the arc to give Wapak a 25-24 lead. After a St. Marys turnover, he then hit his next shot from at least 5 feet deeper and the Redskins had built a 28-24 lead, a lead they would never relinquish.
St. Marys varsity coach Dan Hegemier could only watch his team’s valiant effort go unrewarded — again.
“We were close again, but no cigar,” Hegemier said. “That has been our season in a nutshell. The kids are playing hard, they are busting their tail but we need some shots to go down — they just didn’t fall when the game got tight. We also just turned the ball over too many times and that hurt us.
“We had a little lead at half time and then Buzzard comes out and drops a couple 3s right away — I blame myself on that one,” Hegemier said. “It was my mistake I probably should have went zone right there.”
The ’Riders turned the ball over 10 times in the game, six times in the second half, most leading to points. The Redskins turned the ball over seven times in the game.
But It wasn’t the turnovers that hurt the most, it was Buzzard’s long range bombs.
While Buzzard’s shots gave Wapak the lead, the Redskins free throw shooting nailed down the win. The Redskins managed to knock down 17-of-21 from the free throw line, while St. Marys only went to the line seven times, making five.
Redskin guard Alex Greve killed the ’Riders at the charity stripe in the second half. Hitting only one bucket, a trey in the first half, Greve was 9-of-10 from the free throw line in the second half — ending his night with 12 points.
Buzzard scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half, including knocking down 3-of-4 from the free throw line.
Sophomore guard Kodi Morgan also “had a big night,” Bradley said, by hitting two big 3-pointers in the second period when St. Marys sagged their defense to take away Buzzard. Morgan scored 10 points for the game.
The ’Riders took an 8-7 lead after the first period, which saw neither team hitting their shots. The ’Riders were 3-of-13 from the field, while the ’Skins were 2-of-12. They both heated up in the second period with St. Marys knocking down 6-of-9 from the field, but Wapak matched them by hitting 6-of-11.
The Redskins’ Bertram came alive in the second half, scoring six of his eight points after the break. Temple hit two buckets and Gibson had two layups in the second half — as the points came easy in the paint on feeds from Greve, Bertram, Morgan and Buzzard.
Greve led the Redskins with seven assists for the game.
“I thought overall as a team that is as unselfish I have seen us play in a long time,” Bradley said. “We did a great job of passing and looking for the open guy. When they started to pressure us, we did a nice job of finding the open guy and we had a lot of layups in the second half. Everybody who got in tonight really contributed.”
With the game moving from long-range shooting to the rim, the Redskins also gained an advantage on the glass.
For the game, the Redskins also outrebounded the ’Riders 25-18 for the game, and 14-9 in the second half. Buzzard grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, doubling Zaerr’s team-leading six for the Roughriders.
Hegemier explained he wanted to take some of the scoring burden from Fledderjohann and spread the ball around more to neutralize the Redskins scoring.
“Garet is Garet,” Hegemier said. “He has been through this before. They were face guarding him, holding him and doing all that you could when a kid is on a roll. He did the best he could. We tried to get more shots for James, but we just couldn’t get them.”
“I am really proud of my kids, they just keep battling, keep battling, keep battling,” the ’Rider coach said. “I told them we were defending well. My kids did all that I asked them to do.”
The Roughriders travel to Spencerville tonight to take on the Bearcats, while the Redskins host the Liberty Benton Eagles.