Bowling Green and Anthony Wayne boys basketball teams went at it Friday night like they were playing for the Northern Lakes League championship.
Perhaps they were, or at least jockeying to stay in the race.
“We’re both fighting for positions in the district rankings and stuff like that. It’s a big game,” BG coach Mason Roth said.
“Anytime you play a conference opponent with close to even records, it is an intense game in the gym tonight, a good atmosphere and a good game.”
AW’s 62-58 victory on the Bobcats’ floor keeps them one game behind league leaders Perrysburg and Springfield.
AW is 7-7 overall, but 6-2 in the NLL, while BG falls to 6-7 and 3-4. AW coach Josh Arthur always believed his team could be in the hunt as his team got into the stretch run.
“We always thought we could do it because we have a good group of guys and everybody pushes each other every day, day-in and day-out,” Arthur said. “Sometimes our wins and losses haven’t shown that, but we really have.”
AW is the only NLL team to defeat Springfield (53-51), but have losses to Perrysburg (66-45) and Sylvania Northview (64-57). The Generals also have non-league losses to Olentangy (50-42), Toledo Whitmer (85-76) and Maple Heights (70-67 in overtime).
“We play a tough non-league schedule and these guys have stuck together, they love each other, and you can hear them in the locker room,” Arthur said.
Arthur said his players were celebrating the play of AW senior guard Parker Schofield, who had 25 points and two steals, junior Hayden Bender scored 11 points and 6-foot-4½ sophomore Grant Kinnee had five points and 10 rebounds, including seven rebounds in the pivotal fourth quarter.
“They are just chucking for joy for guys like Parker and Hayden Bender, who was just tremendous tonight,” Arthur said.
“And Grant, I don’t know how many rebounds he had tonight, but the last game he had 15 rebounds, so he is really getting up there. He’s getting to the point that he’s getting above the rim and that is impressive for a sophomore.”
As a result, the Generals controlled the glass by a 33-21 count, but BG got off more shots, making 26-of-50 (52%) while AW made 21-of-44 (48%).
But the Generals, who had 16 turnovers to BG’s nine, made 14-of-17 free throws, and the Bobcats were 3-for-6.
BG had three players in double figures — 6-8 senior forward Jabari Conway and 6-3 senior forward Evan Brandt scored 15 each and senior guard Brock Hastings, who left the game briefly because of an injury but returned shortly after, scored 14 points.
AW opened a quick 15-6 lead just over five minutes into the contest, but BG battled back, taking a 28-22 lead on a 22-foot three-pointer by Brandt with 2:08 remaining in the half.
After AW closed the gap to two, 28-26, at halftime, Brandt and Hastings combined to score 12 third quarter points to push BG to a 40-36 lead, but Schofield’s layup with one second remaining gave AW a 45-44 lead entering the final stanza.
AW led the entire fourth quarter, but never by more than two possessions. The Generals hit 9-of-12 free throws down the stretch to keep the Bobcats at arm’s length.
“It was a good game. Both teams can beat anyone, and can always lose to anyone, and we both played very solidly,” Roth said.
“It was an evenly matched game. Like I told the guys, ‘They just made a few more plays at the end than we did.’”
BG’s defense played a major role as Brandt had three steals and Hastings and Conway had two apiece, but AW junior Griffin Pike had three steals and Kinnee had two. Brandt led BG off the glass with six rebounds.
For the Bobcats, junior guard Jake Amspoker had seven points, junior guard Brayden Freyman scored five points, junior forward Reece Rath added two points, and starting junior point guard Grant Sonner did not score, but was a big reason why the Bobcats’ offense was under 10 turnovers.
For the Generals, senior Aiden Schmenk had seven points and four rebounds, senior Max Walton scored eight, and the 6-5 Pike had six points and six rebounds.
Roth said the Bobcats will try to regroup as they host Delta (9-2) in a non-league contest Monday.
“That’s basketball. You win some you should, and you lose some you should and they all even themselves out,” Roth said.
“We’ve got a big game with Delta on Monday, so we’ve got to refocus and get ourselves back and ready to go on Monday.”