Maumee’s Jaden Walker takes a jump shot over a defender. MIRROR PHOTO BY JOE NEGRICH
BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — It’s been an uphill climb to start the season for the Maumee boys basketball team, starting winless while facing Northern Lakes League heavyweights Perrysburg, Napoleon and Southview.
At long last, though, the Panthers stepped outside the league and broke through for a win – and did it in convincing style.
Maumee came out of the halftime break hot, breaking open a close game and smothering visiting Waite in a 68-28 win.
The chances for wins previously were there. The Panthers led into the third quarter in the season-opener against Napoleon, and they also had a first-half lead at Southview. In both cases, though, they couldn’t put together a full four quarters of basketball.
“Someone was going to win tonight – I’m just glad it was us,” said Maumee coach Ryan Osier. “These kids work hard, so to see their hard work pay off … we needed a win.”
Going back to preseason practices and summer workouts, this was the closest the Panthers have performed to what Osier believed they could do. They put pressure on the ball, got out in transition and scored bunches of points.
Five players scored at least seven points for Maumee, with three cracking double figures. Kyle Arndt posted 20 points, hitting 9-of-13 from the floor, including a pair of 3-pointers. He added four rebounds, three steals and two assists.
For Osier, Arndt becoming a complete player on both ends of the court has lifted his game and the team around him.
“As a coach, you’re looking at so many things, but he definitely stood out,” Osier said. “Kyle’s been a great offensive player through the years, but something has clicked in him.
“Whether it’s football, the understanding of being a quarterback and how valuable defense is — he came in (to basketball) day one as a defensive-minded player. He’s really stepped up.”
Aaron Roberts and Jayvon Hutchinson each scored 10 points, while Hutchinson blocked four shots.
In keeping with the old adage, the Panthers used outstanding play on the defensive end to fuel their offense. They came away with 13 steals and held the Indians to nine points in the second half.
“We knew if we stuck to our game plan we had a good chance of coming out on top,” Osier said. “We really believed what we were doing.”
Eight of the nine players who saw the court against Waite scored. Maumee shot 53 percent from the floor (26-of-49) and nearly 70 percent from the free-throw line (13-of-19).
“It was good for our bench to play,” Osier said. “We were looking at that as a point of emphasis all year, we want to be nine deep, we want to play an in-your-face, aggressive style of game, so we need the bench.”
To that end, the Panthers committed 16 fouls. That wasn’t a big concern for Osier, though.
“We’re deep enough that we can handle that,” Osier said. “The refs do a great job. They’re experienced, easy to talk to. But yeah, we tell our guys, ‘If you foul, you foul.’ It’s part of the game.”
Eastwood 66, MHS 55
For three out of the four quarters, the Panthers played dead even with the host Eagles. That one quarter, however, spelled the difference in the final score.
Eastwood took control of the game with a 17-6 scoring edge in the third quarter to take the non-league win between the future Northern Buckeye Conference opponents.
Maumee led 16-15 after one quarter and the teams played to a 34-34 draw in the second half.
Cole Graetz put in a season-high 16 points, hitting 6-of-12 field goals. The senior added six rebounds and three steals.
Caden Brown also reached double figures, putting in 11 points while making 3-of-5 3-pointers. R.J. McCoy added nine points and Arndt had eight points, six rebounds and three steals.