BASKETBALL: 'Skins stifle Piqua in opener

PIQUA — Wapakoneta Redskins varsity boys basketball coach Matt Bradley promised more defense in 2011-2012.

Friday night at Piqua, the Redskins delivered.

Wapakoneta held the Indians without a field goal for the first 7:28 of the game and rolled to a 63-45 win over Piqua in a season-opening game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.

The Redskins jumped out to a 16-3 lead before Piqua converted its first field goal with 32 seconds left in the quarter.

The Redskins stretched the lead to 32-16 at the half and took their biggest lead of the game — 59-26 — in the fourth quarter before Bradley cleared the bench.

Piqua scored more than a third of their points (17) in the final 4:35 of the game.

“We’ve stressed that all along,” Bradley said. “And once again, we held a team to under 50 and we won a game. I think if we continue to commit to defense and rebounding, I don’t really have any doubts that we’re capable of scoring points.”

How commanding was Wapak’s defense?

The Redskins forced 22 Piqua turnovers, held the Indians to just 14-of-37 (38 percent) shooting, and won the rebounding battle 29-17.

Despite missing 23 shots, Piqua could only muster five offensive rebounds.

“I thought we did a tremendous job limiting them to one shot and getting the rebound,” Bradley said.

First-year coach Heath Butler takes over a Piqua team that had won just two games in its last 56 tries.

“We pride ourselves on playing defense and not turning the ball over,” Butler said. “We turned it over too much. Sometimes we were a little out of control. But the out-of-controllness I wasn’t really concerned about because we were playing hard.

“We just maybe played a little too hard and tried to do too much at times.”

Junior forward Travis Bertram led the Redskins with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting. He was 3-for-5 from three-point range.

Jake Buzzard, also a junior forward, dropped in 20 points on 8-of-14. He also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.

“They were hitting some contested shots,” Butler said. “It wasn’t like they were wide-open.”

Junior guard Alex Greve added eight points and senior center Kaleb Vondenhuevel chipped in with six in a strong game inside.

Bertram pulled down six rebounds and Vondehuevel had five.

Assist statistics were not immediately available.

“One of the things we talked about in the pre-game was we wanted every shot come off an assist,” Bradley said. “And I thought we had some really, really unselfish play from all of our guys.”

Senior guard Taylor Wellbaum led Piqua with 15 points. Senior Jordan Feeser scored nine and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.

Wapak will get its first real test tonight when it heads to Fort Recovery to take on the Indians.

Fort Recovery is coming off a 54-29 shellacking of the St. Marys Roughriders in its opener Friday night.

The Redskins junior varsity team also won Friday night, knocking off Piqua 52-48.

Down 18-16 at the half, Wapak outscored the Indians 17-7 in the third quarter to take a 33-25 lead going into the fourth.

Junior Brandon Erb hit a big 3-pointer at the 2:07 mark of the quarter to swing the momentum Wapak’s way.

The Redskins led by as many as 12, 45-33, in the fourth before Piqua began to chip away at the lead down the stretch.

Adam Henderson led the way with 15 points. Jake Bruns had a big fourth quarter, scoring nine points to finish with 11 for the game. Erb added 10 points.