BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — All it took was for Anthony Wayne 6-foot-3 senior guard Garret Pike to drive to the basket and score with 40 seconds remaining, breaking a 36-36 tie.
Pike’s score proved to be the winning points as the Generals crossed the Maumee River and defeated host Perrysburg, 40-36, in a physical Northern Lakes League thriller on Friday, January 22.
“We competed. That is a big, strong, physical team (Perrysburg) and a well-coached team,” AW coach Josh Arthur said.
“We just decided to get out of here with a win and let them enjoy it tonight, and tomorrow it’s ‘get ready for Napoleon (next week),’” Arthur continued.
“I’m just so proud of all of them. They deserve this,” he added.
AW improves to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the NLL, while Perrysburg, the coaches’ preseason favorite to win the league, fell to 6-6 and 1-1.
Pike led AW with 13 points and eight rebounds and senior guard Dominic Debo had 11 points and five rebounds.
Perrysburg was led by senior Andy Boros, who came off the bench to score 10 points, grab six rebounds and get three steals.
Starting sophomore guard Matt Watkins had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Yellow Jackets.
Pike scored the game’s first seven points as the Generals took a quick 7-0 lead two minutes into the game, but the Yellow Jackets went on a 10-1 run to take a 10-8 lead after one quarter.
Watkins hit a 10-foot jumper with two seconds remaining in the first half to propel Perrysburg to a 19-17 lead at intermission.
Pike hit a 10-footer with 20 seconds remaining in the third to tie the game at 29-all heading into the final stanza.
Neither team had built more than a two-point lead in the fourth until after Pike’s game-winner, and Debo hit both ends of a one-and-one with 10.5 seconds remaining in the game to seal the victory.
Although it was a physical game, there were only two team fouls whistled against each team at two minutes remaining, and AW finished with just eight turnovers and Perrysburg had nine.
“It was a physical game, and we were going at it, and they wouldn’t let me go right, but everybody stepped up,” Pike said.
“We alternated our offense a little bit. (AW senior forward) Evan Ruhe stepped up and he made some big shots for us,” Pike continued.
“(Senior guard) Evan Anderson also played a heck of a game. He is playing awesome out there, and that last rebound was huge.”
Ruhe, a 6-5 senior forward, scored nine points and grabbed nine rebounds for AW, senior forward T.J. Winston scored four points and junior guard Jacob Copley added two points.
Anderson did not score, but had nine rebounds, plus he had a key third-quarter steal on defense.
It seemed that nearly every shot was contested or blocked, and shooting percentages were low. AW made 14 of 51 field goals (27.5 percent) and Perrysburg made 15 of 50 (30 percent).
The Generals also matched the Yellow Jackets in intensity and physical play, which kept the game tight.
“They are resilient – they really are. They love to play together,” Arthur said. “I think we missed some open shots out there, too.
“But we worked hard – we actually did. We didn’t do it as well in the first half, but we sure as heck did in the second half.”
Arthur had said the previous week that he thought his players needed conditioning, so they worked on that Monday and Tuesday.
It must have paid off. For Arthur, to be rewarded after two days of heavy conditioning earlier in the week was priceless. Wednesday and Thursday were about preparing for Perrysburg.
“We had a tough week in practice, and we worked on execution. We could still get a little better with it; however, our boys battled, they competed, they did everything we asked them to do,” Arthur said.
Pike added, “It was great. We have been working hard, preparing for them all week, getting the plays and everything down. We came out and executed our game plan perfectly well.”
AW had a 38-35 edge in rebounding, and each team shot six free throws, with AW making four and Perrysburg making three.
Perrysburg senior forward Aidan Gerrard had four points and six rebounds and junior Kannon Klusmeyer scored four points.
Junior Joe Bohman had three points and five rebounds, guard Mason Schultz scored three and sophomore post Andrew Hunt added two points for the Yellow Jackets.
Perrysburg won the junior varsity game, 48-42, as sophomore Avery Hunt scored 16 and freshman guard Gavin Fenneken scored 14 for the Jackets.
Sophomore guard Max Walton scored 14 and sophomore guards Austin Radnawski and Parker Schofield scored 10 apiece for the Generals.
AW got back into action on Tuesday, January 26, hosting Napoleon (8-4 overall, 0-2 NLL). This Friday, January 29, the Generals will host unbeaten Southview (8-0, 2-0). Both are NLL contests.
On Saturday, January 30, AW travels for a non-league game at Tiffin Columbian (12-2). On Tuesday, February 2, AW has an NLL encounter at Springfield (0-5, 0-2).