MILLBURY — Rossford senior Derek Vorst’s slam dunk with 1:34 remaining said it all — the Bulldogs had avenged a regular season loss to Wauseon, downing the Indians 38-21 in a Division II district semifinal at Lake High School’s Flyer Fieldhouse Thursday.
“We’ve been knocked out early the last couple years, so it feels good to finally take it to a district final,” Vorst said.
Vorst’s dunk gave the Bulldogs a 38-18 lead, a long way from the 53-41 win that Wauseon took from Rossford on the Indians’ court January 21.
“We watched a lot of film from that last game where they beat us by about 100,” Vorst, said, exaggerating the margin of victory.
“That gave us motivation and we knew we were going to have to crash the boards hard, so we emphasized that big in practice,” Vorst continued.
Rossford coach Brian Vorst, Derek’s father, added, “We were so disconnected at their place, and they played well. It was a horrible, hostile environment.
“It was a great home environment for them and it just kind of took us by surprise. We just couldn’t quite get on track. I told the guys before the game we were only down a couple going into the fourth at their place and we as coaches got impatient.
“So, we’re not going to do that tonight,” coach Vorst continued. “We’re going to stay patient and we are going to have trust in what we do and believe in what we do.”
The Bulldogs’ offense fed off the 6-foot-10 Indiana State University-bound Derek Vorst, not so much in his scoring, but in his post play, releasing the ball to wide open teammates cutting to the basket or off the Bulldog’s four-corner offense.
Vorst finished with seven points and five rebounds, but he also had six assists and blocked three shots, and 6-4 senior guard Jake Morrison was 6-for-8 from the field, scoring 14 points with a nine rebounds and two assists.
Rossford (20-4), the Northern Buckeye Conference outright champions, move onto the district finals Saturday against the winner of Toledo Central Catholic (19-4) and Port Clinton (13-10). That winner will advance to next week’s regional tournament at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center.
Wauseon, the Northwest Ohio Athletic League outright champions, bows out of the tournament at 16-8.
The Bulldogs never trailed the final 25 minutes of the game and played a deliberate style of offense but had just seven turnovers while forcing Wauseon into 11 turnovers, seven of them steals. Rossford held a narrow 20-18 edge off the boards.
Meanwhile, Rossford’s defense held Wauseon to three first half field goals, and the Indians struggled to find their mark, finishing 9-for-29 (31%) from the field. The Indians were 2-for-13 (15%) from beyond the arc.
“Our main priority defensively was to keep the ball off the elbows,” Rossford coach Brian Vorst said.
Wauseon had seven points at halftime and did not reach double figures until junior Tyson Rodriguez scored on a steal and layup with three minutes remaining in the third period, but by then the Bulldogs were up, 28-11.
“I thought we came out really tight and never really got out of it,” Wauseon coach Chad Burt said. “Their length really bothered us, they are long at every position, and you have to give them a lot of credit defensively.
“I thought we had some open looks and all-of-a-sudden you had 6-10 at the rim and 6-3 contesting shots. They did a heck of a job,” Burt continued.
Once Rossford had a double-digit lead, they ran their four-corners offense, with a couple miscues, to near perfection in the fourth stanza, getting easy baskets when Wauseon was forced to the perimeter.
“With their length and their skill and the way they pass the ball, when they have a lead on us and get us scrambling around, it makes it tough on us,” Burt said. “They did a nice job, and they deserve to move on.”
Derek Vorst said once the Bulldogs got a solid lead, the plan was to spread Wauseon’s defense out and not get into a physical battle with the Indians inside like during the regular season meeting.
“Teams had been doing it to us and it didn’t work the greatest, but it worked a little bit,” Derek Vorst said. “When we have a lead like that, we are going to want to keep it.”
Not a single Wauseon player reached double-digits in any category, including scoring, as senior Jack Leatherman and Rodriguez scored a team-high five points apiece. Rossford’s goal was to clamp down on Rodriguez.
“We knew that No. 10 (Rodriguez) was lighting it up recently, so we knew we had to get on him,” Derek Vorst said. “We were thinking about chasing him, but we ended up not, so we had to work inside-out.”
Rossford took advantage of its opportunities, outscoring Wauseon 13-4 in points off turnovers and hitting 16-of-34 shots from the floor (47%), including 4-of-13 from the arc (31%).
Rossford senior guard Garette Murphree had eight points and two steals, senior Wes Ellison had four points and two steals, and senior Brandon Swope scored four points.
Rossford 6-4 starting senior guard Brenden Revels finished with one point and two assists but was the playmaker directing the offense, always on the floor.
Landon Hines, a 6-5 senior, had four points, six rebounds, and blocked three shots, junior Trey Parsons scored three points and junior Elijah McLeod and senior Jude Armstong contributed two points each for Wauseon.