BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — In his last regular season game last Friday, Anthony Wayne senior guard Max Denman scored a career-high 34 points as the Generals defeated visiting Perrysburg, 68-57.
“This is a rival and you always want to beat the rival. It was exciting,” Denman said. “We came out and we played our tails off and I was able to benefit off it the most.”
The win secures an outright second-place finish in the Northern Lakes League for AW, which closes the regular season at 15-6 overall and 11-3 in the conference.
It also avenged an earlier 71-57 league loss to the Yellow Jackets, who will go into the Division I tournament at 12-10 and 9-5.
Anthony Wayne wore Perrysburg out with a defensive plan developed by assistant coach Craig Clark. Even though the Jackets were 22-of-39 from the field (56 percent), they committed a costly 21 turnovers.
Denman made five steals, all of which led to baskets in transition, twice on his own dunks, and three more on assists to a teammate sprinting down court ahead of the play.
Clark said it proved the staff found a defensive game plan that was too much for Perrysburg, which was playing without injured starting senior guard Ian Riddle.
“We practiced our presses and different things we wanted to do,” Clark said. “Last time we played them we did more of a zone press and we didn’t get much out of it, so we switched it up and went to a man (man-to-man) press. … We have some great athletes who will make plays.”
Clark says it also helps when you have a deep roster.
“When you’re nine, 10 guys deep, you can really shuffle guys in and out in the first half and keep guys fresh, and then we can really play the way we want to.”
The only area in which the Jackets dominated was rebounding, where they had a 31-19 advantage, but Denman, who had a team-high five caroms, can explain that.
“We look at the stats and they missed 17 total shots,” he said. “They almost shot the lights out and we got 13 rebounds off their 17 misses, so there was actually nothing we could do.”
The Generals also shot well, connecting on 25-of-44 field goals (57 percent) and they committed just five turnovers.
Perrysburg did not miss a shot in the first period and grabbed a 17-13 lead, but AW forced eight turnovers in the second and took a 26-25 lead into intermission.
The Generals scored 42 points in the second half, but they did not pull away until the fourth quarter.
The Jackets led 34-33 with 4:15 left in the third after senior forward Ben Boros converted a four-point play – he hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw.
Perrysburg was down by just three, 49-46, when junior forward Preston Evans scored on an assist from classmate Jackson Sizemore with 6:00 left in the game, but that was the last time the Jackets were within one possession.
Denman had two steals leading to buckets in the fourth and scored 23 points in the second half as AW put the game on ice in the final 3:30.
Senior forward Max Bradfield also hit double figures, scoring 10 points, and senior forward Ben Allen had seven points and two steals for Anthony Wayne.
Junior guard Bobby Miller scored five, junior guards Kyle Ray and Zac Szul had four apiece and senior forward Nick Smith added three points.
Szul also had two steals and junior forward Bryce Boyer had one point for the Generals, who were 13-for-18 from the foul line. Perrysburg made just 9-of-18 free throws.
The Jackets got most of their points in the paint, led by Evans, who scored 21 and had four rebounds.
Boros added 11 points and eight rebounds for Perrysburg, Sizemore had 11 points and six rebounds, junior guard Zach Miller scored six, junior forward Harry Hosler had five points and junior guard Drew Paule scored three.
AW head coach Josh Arthur is pleased about the way his team finished the regular season.
“I think the boys really ramped up their intensity level during practice this week, especially during the game,” he said. “We always want to go into a tournament on a high note and we did that tonight.
“We played well. Both teams had runs. (Perrysburg coach) Dave (Boyce) is a great basketball coach and they have great players and good size with Evans, Sizemore, Boros and Paule, who can shoot the ball.
“But we just worked really, really hard all week and everyone bought in and they’re buying into what we do.”