Kalida's Austin Horstman (54) looks to get the ball during the Wildcats game with Van Wert Tuesday night.
BY BRIAN BASSETT
VAN WERT - When a team's two leading scorers, who account for 55 percent of the team's total points, go 13 minutes without scoring to open the game, that is usually a bad sign.
Fortunately for the Van Wert Cougars Tuesday evening in a non-league contest with visiting Kalida, that was not the case, as Van Wert saw some new players step up in a 58-45 win at the Cougars' Den.
"We haven't played particularly well on Tuesday nights, and I'm not sure we played all that well tonight. When we could defend and get the tempo a little bit, we were able to get out and get some easy baskets," said Van Wert coach Dave Froelich.
Seniors, forward A.J. Smith and point guard Joey Hurless - who average more than 28 combined points per game - didn't score until the 2:54 mark of the second quarter when Smith drained a three.
By that point in the game, however, the Cougars had things in hand, leading 22-15.
Sophomore guard Connor Holliday hit a pair of threes in the first quarter, and junior forward Kyle Keber came off the bench for nine first-half points.
Holliday finished with a team-high 16 points and seven rebounds, and Keber added 12 points.
"(Kalida) went a little junk on Joey (Hurless), and A.J. (Smith) is nursing a tweaked ankle, so Keeber and Holliday made some shots. If we can add that balance, that makes us obviously a lot more effective,' explained Froelich.
Keber and Holliday each entered that game with 59 points scored on the season.
After shooting 3-of-9 from the field in the opening period, the Wildcats stayed close to Van Wert throughout the second, shooting 6-of-10 and getting five points from junior forward Randy Zeller.
The game went to hafltime with Van Wert leading 27-21.
The third quarter was the downfall for Kalida, which went 1-of-8 from the field. The Wildcats' only field goal in the quarter came in the opening seconds when sophomore guard Devin Kortokrax nailed a three-pointer.
Van Wert, on the other hand, went 7-of-12 in the third quarter, and got six points from Holliday alone, matching Kalida's total.By the end of the third Van Wert held a 45-27 lead.
The Cougars ran their lead to 20 points on two occasions in the fourth, the second of which being 53-33. Kalida fought its way back late behind a huge performance from senior center Austin Horstman. Horstman scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the final frame.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it was too little, too late, as Van Wert held on for the 58-45 win.
Along with the 19 points, Horstman added a game-high 12 rebounds.
"We wanted to really do a job on him if we could - with his affectiveness," said Froelich of Horstman. "We're not going to stop him because he is a good low-post player, but our big guys did enough to get him off the block a little bit. Then we brought some help. Late in the game, it got a little misleading. He's going to find ways to score."
The key in the win for Van Wert may have been holding Kalida's leading scorer, senior guard Cody Mathew, scoreless and holding him to only one shot attempt.
"Our ball pressure was pretty good and we did a good job on the Mathew kid, who is a good shooter. We just didn't let them have a 1-2 punch," continued Froelich.
Smith, who saw limited playing time due to the ankle injury, added nine points for Van Wert. Hurless added five, and all eight Cougars who saw playing time scored.
Van Wert outshot the visiting Wildcats 49 percent (19-of-39) to 41 percent (17-of-43). The Cougars also hit 47 percent of their long-range shots, going 9-of-19.
The rebounding was almost a push, with Van Wert grabbing one more, 22 to 21. The Cougars also committed one fewer turnover, seven to Kalida's eight.
The win improves the Cougars to 9-5 on the season, and they host Celina Friday evening in a return to WBL play.
"We'll go to work on (Celina) tonight and tomorrow. We kind of know them. They're playing better right now. It's a typical Celina team that is going to push the tempo... It's a good test, and we need to try to win a league game," concluded Froelich.
KALIDA (2pt. 3pt. FT Pts.)
Mathew 0-1 0-0 0-0 0, A. Langhals 1-1 0-4 0-2 2, Kortokrax 2-6 1-3 3-4 10, Zeller 1-6 2-2 0-0 8, Gerdeman 2-3 0-0 0-0 4, Horstman 7-13 0-0 5-6 19, Miller 1-4 0-0 0-0 2.
Markward 2-3 0-0 0-0 4, Smith 0-1 3-5 0-0 9, Hurless 1-3 0-2 3-4 5, Bidlack 1-2 0-0 2-2 4, Keber 1-2 3-6 1-2 12, Molliday 1-2 3-6 2-3 16, Ray 3-4 0-0 0-0 6, Wolford 1-3 0-0 0-0 2.
Kalida 8 13 6 18 - 45
Van Wert 13 14 18 13 - 58