|Hot 3-point shooting lifts Cougars by ’Cats|
|Wednesday, February 20, 2013 1:37 PM|
The main Cougar culprit was senior A.J. Smith (9 boards) with nine bombs en route to 28 markers, along with 16 from junior Matt Bidlack (5 boards, 3 steals) and 10 from sophomore Connor Holliday. The Cougars (11-10) canned 15-of-32 from beyond the arc to Jefferson’s 2-of-7 as senior Joey Hurless delivered 15 assists.
The Wildcats (4-16) received 26 counters and seven rebounds from junior Ross Thompson, recovering nicely from mid-season knee surgery. Freshman Trey Smith added 17. The Wildcats canned 22-of-32 free throws for 68.7 percent.
No matter what zone the Wildcats tried, the Cougars had the answer from long range. When A.J. Smith hit the first of his long-range baskets just 45 ticks into the game, the visitors led for good. In fact, he hit three triples in the first period alone as the Cougars canned 7-of-14 shots in the canto, 4-of-8 downtown. The Wildcats got four each from Thompson and Trey Smith and used the free-throw line — 7-of-8 in the period — to help stay close. When Kyle Keber hit a bomb from the left corner with 19 ticks showing, the Cougars led 20-11.
The Cougars seemed on the verge of turning this matchup into a rout in the second stanza, shooting out to a 30-13 advantage on an A.J. Smith trifecta midway through the canto. The Wildcats would have none of that, shutting down the visitors the rest of the half and using the charity line — 6-of-9 — to chip away at the deficit. Thompson in particular was effective, downing seven counters in the canto. When junior Tyler Mox hit the second of two singles at 28.1 ticks, Jefferson was within 30-24.
Van Wert quickly made it a 10-point game in the third but the Wildcats again stayed within striking distance, moving within 34-29 on a layin by Trey Smith — off a scramble — at 5:45. The hosts could get no closer as A.J. Smith caught fire again, hitting three treys, as part of an 11-4 spurt to reassert control. Thompson was again very effective, knocking down eight more points, but Bidlack’s seven and six by Holliday were too much for the hosts. When Keber struck for an NBA long ball from the left wing that beat the horn, Van Wert led 58-43.
Try as they might, with Thompson (7) and Trey Smith (6) leading the way, the Wildcats could not make a serious dent in their deficit in the finale. A.J. Smith continued his hot hand with eight more (2 treys) as the Cougars built a lead of as much as 25.
“I just told the kids in the locker room that for us to get to where we want to be, we need to be able to defend people night in and night out in man-to-man. We aren’t there yet but we’re coming,” Coach Smith added. “Offensively, we had some breakout games. Ross had 32 for his career high before tonight but he was confident and it grew as he has success. Trey was Trey; they were doubling and tripling him and we could isolate Ross on their big man. Tyler had his best game. I felt for the last 2 1/2 quarters, we executed as well as we have all year offensively. We rebounded, we executed, we got to the line.” In sum, Van Wert canned 30-of-61 from the floor overall (49.2%) and 6-of-10 at the line (60%); secured 28 caroms, 10 offensive; and amassed a mere five errors and 21 fouls. Van Wert is at home Friday versus Western Buckeye League opponent Ottawa-Glandorf. Jefferson knocked down 17-of-36 fielders for 47.2 percent; nabbed 30 caroms (7 offensive) as Thompson and Smith had seven each and Mox six; and added 15 errors and 10 fouls. Jefferson is at home versus Columbus Grove for Senior Night Friday.
In junior varsity action, Van Wert improved to 20-1 with a 43-20 triumph.