By DAVE HANNEMAN
Findlay High’s Reegan Hayward just hung her head as her foul shot hit the back of the iron, the front, the back again and rattled out.
Trailing Toledo Whitmer in the final minutes of Monday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference game, Findlay had connected on just 1 of 13 shots to start the fourth quarter. And now, with a chance to put points on the board with the clock stopped, even the free throws weren’t falling.
“We couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn, in our own gym,” Findlay High coach Brian Rosendale said after the Trojans dropped a 46-35 TRAC contest to Whitmer.
“That’s the frustrating part. We ran stuff that got good looks. We just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”
Whitmer improved to 8-5 with the win. Findlay fell to 6-7. The outcome left both teams with 3-4 records in the TRAC.
It may not have felt like the middle of winter outside, but inside the Findlay High Gymnasium it seemed like an arctic blast had engulfed the Trojans. Findlay’s frigid start to the fourth quarter was part of a chilly 14 of 54 (26 percent) total for the game, including a 1-for-14 mark on 3-point attempts.
Even with post players Kaylee Brodine and Bri Nichols — the Trojans’ two leading scorers and rebounders –in foul trouble and on the bench a good deal of the second quarter, Findlay forged a 20-20 halftime tie with Whitmer.
Jocellen Puchta popped in a 3-pointer to open the period, Aubrey Hucke scored in transition and Hayward, a 5-foot-8 freshman guard, scored Findlay’s last seven points of the half.
Findlay took a 25-24 lead in the third quarter on Puchta’s steal and layup. Tatum Young answered with a 3-pointer for Whitmer, though, and Khamani Jones hit a deuce and a trey to bump the lead to 32-27.
Findlay trailed just 32-29 when Eva Meyer converted two free throws to cap the third quarter, and 34-30 when Katie Prusnek made one of two foul shots early in the fourth.
Whitmer then put the game on ice … literally.
Findlay managed just one basket over the next 41/2 minutes while Whitmer went on a game-breaking 8-2 run. Jade Nelson and Rhegyn Blood had two baskets each for the Panthers, with both converting offensive rebounds off their own misses during the run.
Findlay did get within 42-34 on Celia Johnson’s basket with just under two minutes left. Whitmer’s Khamani Jones and Lia Rivers converted four free throws in an 18-second span, though, to put it out of reach.
Blood had a 14-point, 10-rebound double-double for Whitmer. Jones had 10 points and Young nine points and eight rebounds. Nelson had six points and 11 rebounds, and teamed with 6-2 sophomore Anabelle Gogul to provide the kind of game-changing defensive effort that doesn’t appear in the box score.
“Going into this, we knew Brodine and Nichols were a huge point of emphasis for them offensively,” said Whitmer coach Brandon Bosch.
“We challenged our post players to really just be physical with them and not give them clean looks. I thought they were phenomenal tonight. That might be the best game I’ve seen out of Jade Nelson and another young girl, Anabelle Gogul. Those two I thought really made it difficult on their post players.
“We knew we needed to do that to get this win, and we executed our game plan rally well.”
Puchta led Findlay with nine points. Hayward had eight.
Brodine hauled down a team-high seven rebounds, but was held scoreless for the first time all season. Nichols had six points and four rebounds.
“We’re struggling right now finding somebody that can score,” Rosendale said.
“I guess it’s back to the drawing board because we can’t win games when we have 20-some turnovers (23) and shoot 20 percent from the field.”
Findlay is on the road for TRAC games at Toledo Central Catholic Thursday and at Lima Senior on January 23.
TOLEDO WHITMER (8-5, 3-4 TRAC)
Jones 3-6 2-2 10, Young 4-9 0-1 9, Blood 5-14 4-4 14, Rivers 0-5 2-2 2, Gogul 1-4 0-2 2, Ismail 1-2 0-0 3, Nelson 3-8 0-2 6. TOTALS: 17-48 8-13–46.
FINDLAY (6-7, 3-4 TRAC)
Brodine 0-8 0-0 0, Puchta 4-11 0-0 9, Johnson 2-7 1-3 5, Shindeldecker 1-4 0-0 2, Nichols 3-5 0-0 6, Prusnek 0-6 1-2 1, Hucke 1-2 0-0 2, Meyer 0-2 2-2 2, Hayward 3-8 2-3 8, Welch 0-0 0-0 0, Rakestraw 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 14-54 6-10–35.
Toledo Whitmer 12 8 12 14 — 46
Findlay 8 12 9 6 — 35
3-Point GOALS: Toledo Whitmer 4-15 (Jones 2-3, Ismail 1-2, Young 1-3, Blood 0-3, Rivers 0-4); Findlay 1-14 (Hucke 0-1, Hayward 0-3, Prusnek 0-3, Meyer 0-1, Brodine 0-1, Puchta 1-4, Johnson 0-1).
rebounds: Toledo Whitmer 43 (Nelson 11, Blood 10, Young 8); Findlay 37 (Brodine 7, Hayward 5, Ouchta 4, Nichols 4).
turnovers: Toledo Whitmer 14; Findlay 23.
junior varsity: Findlay, 36-23.
FRESHMAN: Toledo Whitmer; 38-22.