KALIDA — Van Wert and Kalida both suffered through long periods where shots did not fall during their non-league matchup Tuesday evening.
Fortunately for the Cougars their shooting drought came early.
With only one field goal through the first 11:36 of the game, the Cougars were able to overcame the lack offense to get back in the game, then seal it at the free throw line late as Van Wert escaped Kalida with a 41-38 win. The Cougars are now 6-6 on the season, while the Wildcats dropped to 10-5.
Van Wert came out as cold as the night air missing all 1o of their field goal attempts in the first quarter as they fell behind 16-4 after eight minutes. The only points for the Cougars came on free throws by Drew Myers and Matt Bidlack. The Wildcats built their lead behind eight points from Joe Gerdeman and four from Luke Langhals.
The Cougars' notched their first field goal 17 seconds into the second quarter as Connor Holliday hit a driving layup. Three minutes would run off the clock before Van Wert scored again as they used a 6-0 run to pull within 16-12. Holliday and Bidlack had baskets for the Cougars, while Kyle Keber and Myers each had a free throw. Gerdeman ended the run with Kalida's only points of the quarter on a foul line jumper. Michael Smelser ended the first half scoring with a jumper that pulled the Cougars within 18-14 at halftime.
Both team struggled offensively in the third quarter as Van Wert managed to outscore Kalida 9-5 to even the score at 23-23 going to the fourth quarter. The Cougars scored the first six points of the quarter for a 20-18 lead as Kalida continued to struggle shooting. The Wildcats had a stretch of 12:22 where they hit just one field goal before Devin Kortokrax and Gerdeman scored on back-to-back possessions to put Kalida on top at 22-20. A free throw by Gerdeman with 1:18 left in the quarter had Kalida up three points before Joey Moreland drained a three-pointer from the right side to even the score going to the final eight minutes.
The fourth quarter was back and forth as there were seven lead changes and two ties. Van Wert took a 35-33 lead on a basket by Myers before Luke Langhals drained the Wildcats only three-pointer of the night for a 36-35 Kalida lead. Two free throws by Myers with 2:11 left gave Van Wert the lead for good at 37-36. The Wildcats had chances to regain the lead but turned the ball over on four straight possessions
Van Wert cashed in on two of those missed Wildcat opportunities as Holiday and Stoller both hit two free throws for a 41-36 lead. Kortokrax pulled Kalida within three with 16.7 seconds left with two free throws before the Wildcats fouled Smelser with 14.3 seconds left. Smelser missed the front end of a one and one and Kalida rebounded. The Wildcats went for the tie, after a timeout, only to see Adam Langhals' three-pointer bounce off the rim and into the hands of a Van Wert player. Kalida did not foul and the Cougars ran out the clock.
“This was our fifth game in nine days and I was worried about our legs. I was to start the game and they came out on fire,” Van Wert coach Mark Bagley said. “Give them credit they made plays, but our kids never backed down. We've been competitive in every game but one, Lima Central Catholic. We had a heartbreaker last Friday (Elida) and our kids learned from that. Our kids just battled. Our strengths are quickness, driving to the basket and outside shooting. Our outside shooting was not there tonight, but we started getting penetration and we started to make plays.”
Holliday led the Cougars with 15 points, seven of them in the fourth quarter. Myers added seven points and Bidlack six.
Gerdeman had 17 points to lead Kalida and Kortokrax battled his way to 10 points, seven below his average.
“Van Wert found a way to win tonight and we found a way to lose,” Kalida coach Dick Kortokrax said. “To me, we just wasted a good first quarter, because we came out ready to play and we really dominated, then they put a lid on our basket. We had a very difficult time scoring the last three quarters, whether it was the foul line or any where. They simply manned us and played much more aggressive than we did. They came out that third quarter and just tied us up. This is a learning experience and we'll see if we can learn any thing from this loss and get ready for Leipsic Saturday night.”
Kalida managed a split on the night as their junior varsity posted a 51-36 win.
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Van Wert 13-33 13-16 41: Holliday 6-3-15; Myers 1-5-7; Bidlack 2-2-6; Stoller 1-2-5; Moreland 1-0-3; Wortman 1-0-2; Smelser 1-0-2; Keber 0-1-1; Keirns 0-0-0.
Kalida 14-33 9-16 38: Gerdeman 6-5-17; Kortokrax 3-4-10; L. Langhals 3-0-7; Zeller 2-0-4; A. Langhals 0-0-0; Roebke 0-0-0; Miller 0-0-0.
Van Wert 4 12 7 18 - 41
Kalida 16 2 5 15 - 38
Junior Varsity: Kalida 51-36.
Three-point goals: Van Wert 2-9 (Stoller 1, Moreland 1); Kalida 1-7 (L. Langhals 1).