Stockaders hang on to edge Wildcats
OLD FORT — With a 16-point lead at halftime, an 18-point advantage early in the second half and a 10-point edge midway through the fourth period, Old Fort seemed to have a firm grip on its 17th win of the season.
Things aren’t always what they seem.
The Stockaders did indeed improve to 17-2, but they were pushed to the final second — and beyond — before pulling out a 61-60 win over Woodmore here Tuesday night.
Luke Wagner had just five points, but four were clutch foul shots in the final minute to seal the win.
Wagner hit two throws for a 59-55 lead with 49 seconds left but the Wildcats’ Mitchell Miller nailed his third straight 3-pointer, part of a 12-point finish to a 19-point game, to trim the margin to one.
Wagner then hit two more with 21 seconds left to make it 61-58. At the other end, Woodmore got off three unsuccessful tries from 3-point range, but on the last one, Derek Wank drew Jacob Hammond’s fifth personal foul.
So Wank was challenged with having to be perfect on three free throws with no time on the clock, but the first one bounced away. Two makes only served to narrow the margin.
“That was something,” Old Fort coach Eric Hoover said after his club scored its ninth straight win in the past month of play.
“Luke has made a lot of clutch free throws for us. He made a couple to take the lead at New Riegel a while back and he put those four down for us tonight when we needed them.”
The Stockaders were limited to 5-of-18 shooting and 22 total points in the second half, a complete turnaround from what was one of their best performances of the year in building a 39-23 halftime lead.
The game was tied once at 3-3 before Jacob Webb hit a 3-pointer and drove for a couple other scores and Hootie Cleveland nailed two from long range for a 19-11 Stockader advantage at the first stop.
By halftime, Cleveland had two more 3-pointers toward a 16-point night. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-6 Webb took his game inside several times in working toward a final line of 20 points and seven rebounds.
“We had so many good things happening from everywhere. Everybody played well,” Hoover said. “(Eric) Bell got in foul trouble, but he was playing well, too, before that in the first quarter.
“The guys got offensive rebounds, the pressure looked good and we were looking a little better in transition than we had been lately,” he said. “So, yeah, that was a great first half.”
A.J. Baker picked up for Bell with six points and four boards in the second period. The Stockaders nearly doubled the Wildcats up in rebounding at 17-9 through two periods.
“They doubled us up in just about everything, I think,” Woodmore coach Aaron Clouse said. “We knew they were going to try to speed us up. The goal was to try to keep our pace, but we failed that in the first half.
“We just played at their pace and that played right into their hands,” he said. “We dug a big hole in the first half.”
Mike Blausey joined Miller in the scoring act in the second half to spark Woodmore’s comeback. Blausey finished with 16 points and nine rebounds, including the first 11 points his team scored in the second half.
“He can play in and play out, plus he plays real good defense and rebounds so well for us,” Clouse said. “He’s able to establish himself without a whole lot of help from us in terms of having to run sets for him.”
Blausey had 13 points in the third period as Woodmore pulled to within 45-41. Then Miller got it going.
“I felt like we were getting good shots, but we weren’t getting shots to fall,” Hoover said. “Sometimes we relax a little and start taking bad shots, but I don’t think we did that tonight.
“But I have to believe we relaxed a little on defense,” he said. “We did a good job of making it tough on them in the first half. But they got rolling, gained some confidence and then started making even the tough shots.”
J.T. Atkin had eight points for the Wildcats. Baker had eight points and Bell added seven points and 10 boards for Old Fort, which hosts Calvert Friday in a key Sandusky Bay Conference River Division game.
“This wasn’t pretty, but we snuck away with a win,” Hoover said. “Now we have a chance to win the championship outright at home. You can’t ask for more than that.”