The adage in basketball of living by the THREE was nearly demonstrate in the Division II District semifinal at Bowling Green State University.
The Wauseon Indians (23-1) rated eighth in the latest state poll, were given all the could handle during a 59-57 win as Napoleon (9-16) used the three-ball almost exclusively to keep the game in knots for most of the four quarters and two over time periods.
The Indians looked as if they would be in the driver’s seat from the beginning as they broke out to a 13-4 first quarter lead, thanks in large part to the early play of Brooks Gype who connected for Wauseon’s first 10 points of the game. Enter Napoleon’s Brett Lauf. Lauf, known for his presence from beyond the arc, cut the Indians advantage to 13-7 with is first bomb. The Wildcats cut the margin to 13-9 seconds later after a Wauseon turnover with a bucket by Reid Sonnenberg. The Indians charged back with a nice feed from Austin Rotroff to Carter Bzovi for two. Making the score 15-9. This time it was Landon Willeman from three-point land to bring the Wildcats back to within three at 15-12 with 1:18 remaining in the opening quarter.
Wauseon used a basket from Owen Newlove on an assist from Brendan Britsch to open the margin back up to five at 17-12. That margin shrank quickly though, as Lauf connected on his second three-pointer to close the gap to 17-15. The quarter ended with Rotroff hitting one of two foul shots to keep the Indians’ advantage at three points, 18-15.
The Indians lead narrowed to 18-17 to start the second quarter as Brennan Druhot was good for two. Carter Bzovi got into the scoring column as he answered with two of this own as the Indians continued to hold on to a slim 20-17 margin. The two teams then traded baskets as the score grew to 22-19. Napoleon’s Grant Strock missed an attempt from three-point land giving the ball back to Wauseon. Taking advantage offensively was Levi Seiler with a nice move close to the basket to grow the Indians lead to 24-19. It was a bit of a run for the Tribe as they scored after another Strock miss as Gype’s miss turned into a Rotroff slam making the lead 26-19 and giving the Indians a bit of breathing room. The quarter’s scoring fell silent after that until near the two minute mark when Bzovi gave Wauseon a 28-19 lead. Lauf responded to the wakeup call though and sank his third three-pointer to close the gap to 28-22. After a Newlove miss, Lauf obliged with a miss from deep with 1:12 left. On the Indians next possession, Bzovi found Rotroff at the basket on a nice assist to make the lead eight points once again. The momentum shifted as the second quarter buzzer sounded as Willeman sank a three-pointer to make the half time score 30-25 Wauseon.
The Lead was six points again in favor of Wauseon as the third quarter got rolling with a bucket from Bzovi for a 33-27 advantage. Alex Gerken missed for Napoleon on their next possession but Sonneberg was there for the put back and was fouled. His ‘and-one’ made it a 33-30 score. The Indians turned the ball over on a walk called against Rotroff. The Wildcats took advantage in a big way with yet another triple from Lauf, tying the game for the first time at 33-33. Gype gave the Indians the lead back after being fouled by Sonnenberg. Gype made the front end of a two-shot foul as the Indians clinged to a 34-33 lead. After another Rotroff to Bzovi connection, the ball was in Lauf’s hands again as another three sailed into the hoop to tie the game again at 36-36. Rotroff put the Indians back in front on their next possession with a turnaround jumper. Bzovi made a nice spin move following a failed Lauf launch to put Wauseon back in front by four, 40-36. After a Sonnenberg make, the Indians were guilty of a turnover leading to Napoleon’s first lead. Druhot nailed a three with 2:31 left in the third for the 41-40 lead. The next basket was a welcomed three from Gype to keep Wauseon on pace with the ‘three ball’ crazed Wildcats. The quarter ended with the Indians still clinging to a 43-41 lead.
The fourth quarter started with points for Wauseon, two from Gype and the other two with foul shots from Rotroff to increase the lead to 47-41. Lauf tried to fire another three but was off the mark. Wauseon converted from the miss with a Britsch assist to Rotroff building the lead to 49-41 with 6:34 left. Just as it looked like the Indians would pull away for the win, Rotroff fouled Lauf who made both shots, then Wauseon committed three consecutive turnovers allowing Napoleon to come right back into focus. Two more Lauf threes and just like that, the game was tied at 49-49. The Wildcats took their second lead of the game on a three by Willeman following two straight Napoleon offensive rebounds. The ball stayed in the Wildcats offensive end a little too long as Willeman’s bucket put the Wildcats up 52-50 with under three minutes left. Rotroff got a bucket for the Indians to tie the game up yet again at 52-52 with 1:30 remaining. As it turned out, Wauseon could have squeaked out a two-point win in regulation, but Gype missed on an off balanced layup attempt sending the game into its first overtime.
The two stars of the game scored the only points in the first overtime period. Rotroff scored and was fouled converting the conventional three-point play. But it was Lauf once again converting his own definition of a three-point play with a shot from deep outside to end the first overtime tied at 55-55.
The nerve-racking second overtime saw the Indians outscore the Wildcats 4-2 to claim victory but it was not quite that easy. Rotroff scored Wauseon’s first point after being fouled by Druhot. The 6-9 junior missed the front end of the two-shot foul, but redeemed himself swishing the second shot as the Indians were up 56-55. Rotroff then blocked his third shot of the game as Willeman tried to go in for a layup. Britsch was fouled on Wauseon’s next possession. On Britsch’s second miss from the foul line, Rotroff got the rebound and was fouled. Rotroff again missed the first free shot, but connected on the second to put the Indians up 57-55. Willeman fired another three that was off the mark but Lauf was there for only his second 2-point shot of the game with the rebound to tie it up again at 57-57. The last two Wauseon points came on the back ends of Rotroff’s two shot foul situations. As the Wauseon contingent collectively held their breaths, Lauf and the Wildcats died by the three as Lauf’s final shot was off target.
Lauf led all scorers with 28 points, including eight three-pointers and Rotroff led the Indians with 25 points.
Bill Bray may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org