Memories. That’s what Rossford can take from this season.
There will be no regional title for the Bulldogs, but there was a district championship, a league title and a season to remember that will stand out for Rossford after it fell, 49-42, to Van Wert in a Division II regional semifinal at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center Thursday.
Quite simply, the difference in the game was the outside shooting.
Both teams made 16 field goals, but the Cougars (19-7) connected on 9-of-19 shots from beyond the arc, good for 47%, while the Bulldogs (21-5) made just 4-of-21 (19%) three-pointers. Overall, VW was 16-of-34 (47.1%) from the floor and Rossford made 16-of-40 (40%) shots.
The Cougars, who had just one player taller than 6-2, gave the Bulldogs some problems because of their length and athleticism.
“They pressured us a little bit. We missed shots, we did not knock down our open shots. It seemed like they were in the paint on almost every possession, and they did exactly what they had to do to beat us,” said Rossford coach Brian Vorst.
“We just couldn’t quite get over that hump. We had some good looks, good opportunities. We didn’t do a very good job of getting on the glass.”
VW consistency double-teamed 6-foot-10 Rossford senior Derek Vorst in the post, setting the Bulldogs up for some open looks, but they couldn’t knock down the perimeter shots.
“Derek has faced double and triple teams most of the year. They made it difficult and hard on our guards,” said coach Vorst. “They had a strong double team, and we had trouble getting loose on the perimeter.”
The key sequence in the game came with just under four minutes remaining when a missed Rossford layup led out to a run on the other end for VW, and Aidan Pratt drilled a three-pointer from the left wing to give the Cougars a 42-35 lead with 3:38 to play.
The Bulldogs, who would have cut the deficit to two points had the layup been converted, would get no closer than five points the rest of the way.
“It was a chance for a championship play. They made a championship play, and we didn’t,” said Vorst. “I ask the question, ‘Why wasn’t there somebody down there for the putback?’”
VW coach Ben Laudick talked about the challenges Rossford presented for his team.
“It’s kind of how we thought it would be, a fairly close game. Rossford is a really good opponent, they presented some challenges for us,” Laudick said.
“They can put a 6-10 guy out there, we can’t do that. I thought we did a really good job of containing their shooters, we only lost them once or twice. We throw a game plan out there and we tweak it as we go.
“From what we saw on film, instead of passing out of the zone, if you dribble, Vorst will get himself away from the basket, and that creates driving opportunities. If you get it into the corner, you can get some threes.”
With about six minutes to play and the Cougars holding a 36-31 lead, Laudick had his club pull the ball out and stall, which the Bulldogs responded to by coming out on the perimeter, something VW was expecting would happen.
“We pulled the ball out and got some driving opportunities,” said Laudick. “We were able to spread the floor.”
The second half had just 38 total points between the two teams — and a number of those points came in the final two minutes when VW made free throws as Rossford was forced to foul — but there were some fireworks in the first half as the Cougars held a 28-25 lead at the half.
In the first quarter, VW jumped out to a 5-0 lead before the Bulldogs rallied to take a 14-13 lead into the second quarter. Senior guard Brenden Revels had seven points in the first quarter as both teams got out on the break, scoring both in the paint and out on the perimeter.
In the second quarter, the Cougars got three-pointers from Pratt, Luke Wessell and Carson Smith as it outscored Rossford, 15-11, to take a 28-25 lead into the half.
Jake Morrison led the Bulldogs with 13 points and nine rebounds, Revels scored 12 points and Derek Vorst had 10 points and seven rebounds. Wesley Ellison scored four points and Garette Murphree added three points.
Pratt led all scorers with 22 points and seven rebounds and Smith finished with 14 points with four rebounds to lead VW.
It was the final game for a special group of seniors — Revels, Morrison, Ellison, Brandon Swope, Murphree, and Derek Vorst.
“This is a special group of young men,” said Brian Vorst. “These seniors have played together since third or fourth grade. It’s hard to see the season end, but it’s been such a wonderful experience.
“It doesn’t have that same end-of-the-year feeling. We’ve had so many memories. I feel like our kids have given everything to us, and they’re pillars in the community.
“All six of those seniors are going to play college sports. I’m so proud of them. We love ‘em and everything they’ve given to us.
“We could’ve won the state championship and my feelings about these guys would be the same. It’s a special group of kids. It was just one of those nights, but there are only going to be happy feelings.”