GENOA — After three quarters, Genoa had Rossford right where they wanted them in a Northern Buckeye Conference championship showdown Friday.
The Comets trailed by just three, 33-30, entering the fourth stanza, but Genoa went 0-for-11 from the field over the final eight minutes.
That included two missed bunnies by 6-foot-7 freshman Jacob Plantz to allow the Bulldogs to get away with a 44-31 win.
“You couldn’t ask to be in a better position,” Genoa coach Jon Sandwisch said. “If you’d have told me we’d go into the fourth quarter being down by three, we would take that 100% of the time, right?
“We were in striking range against one of the best teams in Northwest Ohio. When those (shots) don’t fall against a real good team, we are going to be in trouble.”
Rossford’s defense decided they had to step up when it counted most.
“We made a couple adjustments in the fourth quarter on how we were defending and the boys did a really good job and I think we picked it up a notch,” Rossford coach Brian Vorst said.
“Defensively, I think we played a little bit harder and communicated a little bit better.
That’s what often happens when an experienced team like Rossford, which starts five seniors, plays a team that starts three underclassmen.
“I think that’s huge in a game like this because these guys have been through that before,” coach Vorst said. “We got to talk about when we went over to Eastwood (Eastwood won) last year and how they did whatever they wanted to do.
“This year we thought was our turn. We are the senior-laden team and in a game like this we wanted to be the aggressor and we wanted to take advantage because hopefully we’ve learned from it, and I believe we did.”
Rossford 6-foot-4 senior guard Jake Morrison, the workhorse on the team, went 4-for-7 from the field, including 2-for-4 from the arc, in scoring a team-high 14 points with five rebounds.
Morrison says this time his role was to score, but he does what he must to make sure the Bulldogs win.
“I love doing that. I love playing hard, I love taking my team to a win, and it’s not always the points that is the biggest factor in winning,” Morrison said.
“You can do other stuff, rebounding, playing defense — all of those play huge factors in winning games.”
Brenden Revels, another 6-4 senior guard, had 11 points, eight rebounds and two steals, senior Wes Ellison went 3-for-5 from the field, scoring seven points, and senior guard Garette Murphree went 2-for-4 from the arc, scoring six points.
The win gives Rossford the outright championship after Eastwood won it by beating Rossford twice last year. It is Rossford’s first title since going back-to-back in 2020 and 2021, and fifth NBC boys basketball title since the league began in 2011.
“It means a lot, especially for the seniors,” Morrison said. “We played as a team, shared the ball, and it really helped down the stretch taking care of the ball.
“It feels good getting it back — we needed it,” Morrison continued. “Our coaches taught us well and it was a great team win.”
The Bulldogs finished the regular season 18-4 overall and a perfect 14-0 in the league.
“It feels good. These guys have worked hard to deserve it,” coach Vorst said. “We talk about checking boxes and stuff like this, and this is one of those boxes that we check.
“I’m really proud of how gritty they were tonight,” coach Vorst continued. “We didn’t have that blow-away (win) that we’ve had lately, but we were pretty tough and made good decisions.”
It was rewarding for the coach’s son, too — Indiana State University commit Derek Vorst, a 6-10 senior who had six points, four rebounds, two assists and blocked six shots.
“It definitely feels good,” Derek Vorst said. “We feel like we could have gotten it last year, but we had a couple poor (poorly-played) games, and it was good to get back on it.
“We knew this was going to be a tough battle, especially at their place and they’re trying to pack the gym, and it was a great atmosphere — I love it.” Derek continued.
Genoa, which needed a win to share the title with the Bulldogs, ends at 15-7 and 12-2.
Genoa’s defense got off to a good start, not allowing the Bulldogs to get on the scoreboard until senior guard Jake Morrison scored on a baseline layup after five minutes and 30 seconds had passed.
Genoa’s last lead was 7-6, but Morrison was fouled on a layup with 1.5 seconds remaining in the first quarter, and his two free throws gave Rossford an 8-7 lead entering the second quarter.
Rossford never trailed again, but Genoa battled, closing it to a one-possession game twice in the second quarter and twice in the third quarter.
Rossford played a clean game offensively, committing just two turnovers, and owned a narrow 26-24 advantage off the glass while forcing five turnovers.
The Bulldogs shot 42% (14-for-33) from the field, 35% (6-for-27) from downtown and made 10-of-13 free throws (77%).
Coach Vorst said the Bulldogs were satisfied with staying on the perimeter instead of attacking the basket because of Genoa’s defensive strategy.
“We knew that they were packing it in pretty tight and we have pretty good guards, and we were just trying to put them in the position to score, and that’s kind of what they were giving us with that, and we had to take advantage of it,” Coach Vorst said.
Genoa junior guard Jon Huston had three triples in scoring a team-high 11 points, Plantz had nine points and eight rebounds and senior point guard Griffin Meyer had four points and two assists.
Senior guard Skylar Ju scored four points and junior forward Aiden Brunkhorst had three points and six rebounds.
The Comets shot 27% (11-for-41) from the field, 26% (6-for-23) from the arc and made three of four free throws. Sandwisch said his team knew that they had to have their best game to pull off the upset.
“We didn’t have to be perfect, but we had to play our best basketball,” Sandwisch said. “We have to give them problems and I think we did that for three quarters. We played really, really hard.
“I stress when I got this job that this job that this program is not going to be based on winning or losing.
“It’s going to be based on doing things right, and we can control that by our attitude and effort, and I couldn’t have asked for a better attitude tonight or more effort. I really think the bottom line is our seniors have taken on really hard roles and accepted them and taken on great leadership roles, too,” Sandwisch continued.
Rossford opens the Division II tournament at 6 p.m. next Friday at Anthony Wayne’s Dick Albaugh Gymnasium against the winner of Maumee (5-17) and Bryan (5-17) for the right to advance to the district tournament.