The Wauseon Indians (26-1) overcame a late offensive burst from Elida (17-10) to capture the Division II Regional Championship with a 54-45 overtime win.
The Indians got off to their usual fast start as a jump shot by Austin Rotroff gave Wauseon a 12-4 lead with 1:19 left in the opening quarter.
The final points of the quarter came with :58 remaining with a three-point goal by Elida’s Calan Henderson to cut the Indians lead to five points at 12-7.
The game’s second quarter went the Indians way as Elida was held to three points. At the 6:23 mark Daniel Unruh sank a three-pointer to close the gap to 14-10. Wauseon responded with terrific defense and two points from Rotroff and a three-pointer by Carter Bzovi as the teams went to the locker room with Wauseon in command 19-10.
The game’s third quarter was played evenly as Wauseon won the eight-minute stretch 11-10. Wauseon built an 11-point lead 23-12 at the 5:43 mark with two Brooks Gype foul shots. Elida answered with a small six point run to shrink the Wauseon lead to five at 23-18. The Indians fought back thanks in large part to sixth man Levi Seiler. Seiler, with his ‘take no prisoners’ style of play, scored Wauseon’s next four points after contributing in a big way on the defensive end of the court. Seiler’s two scores put Wauseon back on top 28-18 with 1:09 remaining in the quarter. The teams traded baskets to bring the end the period to a close with Wauseon enjoying a 30-20 lead.
Three times during the fourth quarter Wauseon enjoyed 10 point leads, but Elida did not fold. Another Gype free throw had Wauseon up 38-30 with 2:49 remaining. Elida showed the crowd what got them this far in the tournament as they dug in their heels. A bucket by Baylen Stinson off an offensive rebound cut the Wauseon lead to 38-32. A Wauseon turnover gave the ball back to Elida. A jumper by Stinson was blocked by Rotroff but ended up in the hands of Unruh. Stinson fired and was good with a three cutting the Wauseon lead to 38-35 with 2:22 left. An Elida steal by Drew Samo had the Bulldogs smelling blood. Henderson brought the Elida crowd to their feet as he nailed a three to give the game its first tie 38-38 with 1:50 left. A third Wauseon turnover in a row led to Elida’s first lead of the game at 40-38 on a jumper from Stinson with 1:09 remaining. After a 30 second Wauseon timeout, Stinson fouled Gype sending him to the line for potentially the biggest two foul shots of his life. Calm, cool and collected Gype sank both shots to tie the game at 40-40. Following a timeout from each team, Wauseon’s entire tournament run could have come to an end with one second left, but reminiscent of the Napoleon playoff game, the last second shot by Uhruh was off target and the Indians dodged yet another bullet as the game went into overtime tied at 40-40.
The Indians had their back to the wall. How would they respond? It was clear that Austin Rotroff was not about to see his team’s season come to an end. The 6-9 junior scored the first five points in overtime to build Wauseon’s lead to 45-40 with 3:09 remaining. But after a Gype steal, the Indians turned the ball over leading to an Elida three with 2:19 left. With the score 45-43, Gype again was at the foul line.
The 6-4 junior was a human study in concentration and confidence. Not only did Gype make both foul shots, but he connected on eight straight foul shots thereafter. Elida scored their season ending foul shot with :34 remaining making the Wauseon lead 52-45. Over the final :34 Elida missed their final three shots as the Indians won the championship 54-45.
Coach Chad Burt, who was a starter for the last Indians team to advance to the Final Four in 1994, was smiling from ear to ear. “It’s truly an unbelievable feeling,” Burt said. “From the coaching side and the player side I understand the preparation it takes to get here. I’m so proud of my guys, I have a great group of kids that have been a pleasure to coach.”
The two heroes standing out on this day were Rotroff and Gype. Rotroff led all scorers with 24 points on 9 of 10 shooting and 6 of 7 from the foul line to go with his seven rebounds and one blocked shot. “I had confidence in every one of my shots, and my teammates were giving me the ball in good spots, which is what made that happen,” Rotroff said. Gype was stellar down the stretch. The junior, scoring seven points at the end of regulation, added 10 points in the overtime period to finish with 17. His 13 of 15 foul shot totals were a main contributing factor in Wauseon’s win. “Shooting is all about confidence,” Gype explained. “I had to move on from earlier misses and step up with confidence. It felt great.”
The Indians journey continues Thursday at 10:45 am when they will face the 22-6 Eastmoor Academy Warriors at the Schottenstein Center at Ohio State University.
Bill Bray may be reached at email@example.com