PERRYSBURG — In a northern Wood County showdown, Rossford held off a late Perrysburg rally to post a 55-53 boys basketball win on Thursday.
Rossford, picked to win the Northern Buckeye Conference, improves to 7-2 while Perrysburg, the coaches’ preseason favorite to win the Northern Lakes League, falls to 8-2.
The match-up featured a virtual one-on-one matchup between Perrysburg 6-foot-3 senior guard Matt Watkins and Rossford 6-foot-3½ senior guard Brenden Revels. For Revels, it was a bit personal.
Revels recalled how the Yellow Jackets had defeated Rossford, 55-54, at George Wolfe Field House one year earlier to win the Rossford Holiday Tournament championship.
“We really thought about last year and how we came up short at the end on a last second shot, so we really wanted to get our get-back and get the win,” Revels said.
In this year’s rematch, Revels scored a game-high 19 points with three assists while Watkins finished with 14 points, three assists and two steals, but both were assigned to guard each other. Revels said he lives for matchups like this.
“I really liked it,” Revels said. “It just gives me another edge to play with. It was pretty big and pretty aggressive, so it was good to see a matchup with another kid who is bigger and stronger than me.”
Rossford coach Brian Vorst credited Revels for how he handled the high-profile matchup.
“Matt is a heck of a guard. He’s a real good defender, and he’s a hard dude to guard,” coach Vorst said.
“Brenden did a real nice job. He got a little loose with it once-in-a-while but for the most part he was able,” coach Vorst continued.
“He’s big and long and strong and he’s able to get his shoulder by guys a lot and had some really nice finishes and made some really nice passes as well.”
Revels was 7-for-12 from the field, including 3-for-5 from beyond the arc. Indiana State-bound 6-10 senior post Derek Vorst had 11 points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs.
Rossford 6-4 senior guard Jake Morrison was one of the unsung heroes, scoring just six points, but he crashed the boards for nine rebounds, often coming out of nowhere to chase a long carom.
“You have to give them a lot of credit — they showed a lot of poise,” Perrysburg coach Dave Boyce said.
“Revels controlled the game and Morrison played real smart, and Vorst is solid. They’re good and they played a real good game.”
Perrysburg junior guard Austin Shultz had 15 points and five rebounds and senior forward Avery Hunt scored 15.
Rossford was able to take advantage of a bad shooting night out of the gate for Perrysburg, grabbing an 11-2 lead after the first quarter.
The Yellow Jackets missed their first 11 shots from the floor until junior Matt Hubbard scored on an offensive rebound and putback with 15 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
Up to that time, the Bulldogs had opened on an 11-0 run as Revels, Vorst, and senior guard Garette Murphree all hit three-point shots.
“I thought the time when we didn’t play well was too long,” Boyce said. “We lost our poise too long when things weren’t going our way and that allowed the gap to get pretty big.”
Rossford expanded their lead to 29-15 at halftime as the Yellow Jackets went into the locker room shooting 24% (6-for-25) from the floor, including 14% (2-for-14) from downtown.
Meanwhile Rossford shot 63% (10-for-16) from the floor and made 6-of-9 first half triples (67%).
“The first half was a shooting contest and we lost it. We dug a hole,” Boyce said.
The second half saw Perrysburg employ a tight man-to-man defense, forcing seven turnovers, as the Yellow Jackets gradually got back into the game. Revels said Perrysburg’s defense was at times overwhelming.
“It was a little challenging but throughout the last couple games we played some aggressive teams that got us prepared just for that — to get pressed and be able to handle the ball,” Revels said.
Perrysburg junior guard Gavin Fenneken cut to the basket and scored on a dish from Watkins, tying the game for the first time at 53-53 with 1:45 remaining.
On Rossford’s ensuing possession, Revels and Vorst pieced to perfection a classic give-and-go with Revels scoring what turned out to be the winning basket on a lay-up with 57.8 seconds remaining.
The Yellow Jackets finished the game shooting 40% (21-for-53) from the field, including 31% (9-for-29) from downtown and Perrysburg made two of three free throws.
Rossford finished the game shooting 56% (20-for-36) from the floor, made 7-of-13 treys (54%), and the Bulldogs were 8-for-12 from the charity stripe (67%).
The only category overwhelmingly in Perrysburg’s favor was the 13-2 advantage in points off turnovers. The Jackets committed just two turnovers to Rossford’s 10. The Bulldogs held a slim 23-21 rebounding advantage.
For Rossford, senior forward Brandon Swope was 4-for-6 from the field, scoring nine points, Murphree was 2-for-4 from downtown and scored eight, and senior guard Wes Ellison added two points.
For Perrysburg, senior forward Andrew Hunt had four points and five rebounds, Fenneken finished with three points and two assists, and Hubbard had two points and four rebounds.
Rossford had not played in 11 days since losing to Mansfield Senior, 56-55, at Lima Senior’s Coach Q Classic on Dec. 18. Coach Vorst thought the time off did his team did some good.
“We took a lot of time off after the Mansfield game — our guys needed some rest. We don’t go real deep,” Vorst said.
“We play six guys right now and our guys were fatigued. We played three games in five days and that is what gave us trouble against Mansfield, I thought.”
It also gave the Bulldogs more time to prepare for Perrysburg.
“You could tell we were mentally and physically prepared,” Vorst said. “(Junior varsity) coach (Jon) Reitz did a great job preparing for Perrysburg and our guys executed really well.
“They came out and pressured us and gave us some trouble, but once we figured out how to handle that pressure, good things came out of it. And it’s hard to replicate things like that in practice, as hard as our JVs tried.”