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Apaches rout Knights in County title rematch

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

If Wabash’s boys’ basketball team was going to once-and-for-all take the throne as the top team in Wabash County on Friday, it was going to have to do something that hadn’t been done in over a decade.

One week removed from squaring off for the Wabash County Tournament title, the Apaches traveled to Southwood looking for its first win over the Knights since 2006. Unlike last week’s championship game, though, Wabash left no doubt who the best team on the floor.

The Apaches led for all but five seconds on the night, built a double-digit lead in the first and put together a dominant performance in a statement win, routing the Knights 87-58.

“So far, yes, that is the best game we’ve played at both ends,” Wabash head coach Paul Wright said. “We’ve had the same shots, they just haven’t been falling for us. But no, it’s definitely, I’m not going to lie to you, it’s our best all-around game of the year and hopefully it’s a good start to the new year and we can continue this. But it’s going to be tough.”

The difference on the night was noticeable from the onset. With a week of preparation available and Friday’s contest being the only of the weekend for Wabash, the Apaches went full-bore from the onset, harassing the Knights with a full-court press that led to a fast 7-0 lead for the guests.

“Tonight’s game was different because Wabash, they got a clean look at us,” Southwood head coach John Burrus said. “When you come into the finals in the County, they’re just playing for the championship and it happened to be us. They still have to play that first game and they had a pretty easy night that first night but still they had two games. I think that was a factor. They couldn’t totally focus on us and then when they did here for a week, that showed tonight. They’re a veteran team and they played well. They stuck it to us.”

Southwood made it a game with a 10-2 run that started with a Gabe Lloyd three-pointer and finished with a Carson Rich long-range effort to give the hosts a 10-9 advantage. Southwood’s only lead, though, was short-lived as Trenton Daughtry took the inbounds and raced down court for a layup to put Wabash back ahead 11-10.

That Daughtry basket sparked a 10-0 run that featured a three-pointer from Jared Holley and a three-point play from Logan Vander Velden. After seeing Southwood score three-straight to cut the margin down to 19-13, Wabash closed the frame with the final seven points, no shot bigger than Dereck Vogel’s 30-foot effort just ahead of the quarter buzzer to give the guests a 26-13 lead.

“We want to do that every game but we definitely today,” Wright said of the high-intensity start to the game. “It’s been since 2006 that we’ve won here. We kind of made that a point of emphasis for three days and I think the kids were tired of hearing about it. All three teams, we wanted to come in here and just play hard. We’ve preached ‘Just do what you’ve been taught’ and I thought tonight they did. They didn’t try to do too much. They just went out there and moved the ball, we got open looks.”

Wabash only continued to build its lead in the opening minutes of the second, scoring to open the frame as the lead grew to 39-21 after a pair of Vogel freebies. Southwood used its second 10-2 run of the half to cut the margin down to 10 points following a Barney jumper and looked to be heading into halftime with some momentum.

Wabash’s backcourt of Trenton Daughtry and Vogel ensured the Apaches would be the ones with momentum, first with Daughtry three-point play before a pair of free throws from Vogel in the final seconds pushed the lead back to 15 points at 46-31 at the break.

“When they took Daughtry out with two minutes to go, we made a little push and we tried to amp it up a little bit because when he’s not in, he’s really good so it gives you an opportunity to maybe do a few things and we did,” Burrus said of the sequence to close the first half. “I think we got a little run there, maybe five points, but then when he came back in they got a little run, which was big before halftime. It just made it hard for us to do the things we need to do with this group. We’re not going to be a great pressing team. We don’t have great depth. It’s hard to press with inexperienced players. So, when we had to extend, it made it really hard for us.”

The Apaches continued piling it on in the third as their advantage hit 20 points following a Daughtry bucket early in the frame. Vogel, meanwhile, continued his career night with two more three-pointers as part of a 21-point effort, a season- and career-high.

“He saw the ball go in the hole,” Wright said of Vogel’s night. “He’s struggled the last couple games but he can shoot but we tell him everyday ‘You just have to shoot when you’re open’ and tonight it was nice. We know how hard he works to shoot every day in practice. We do shooting drills and it’s nice to see a kid put in that effort and see the ball go through the hoop. That was a big help for us for him to be able to do that.”

Southwood never offered a serious rally in the second half as the lead only grew, peaking at 33 points late in the fourth quarter. The loss marked many milestones on the night. On top of being Wabash’s first win at Southwood since Jan. 5, 2007, the loss snapped an 18-game home winning streak in conference contests for Southwood. That streak dated back to Feb. 14, 2014.

Vogel and Daughtry paced all scorers on the evening with 21 and 19 points, respectively. Logan Vander Velden finished with 14 for the Apaches while Holley had nine, all coming in the first half.

“I think they’re quick, they’ve got good hands, they’re good anticipators and I’ve coached a few of those,” Burrus said of Wabash. “So, they were amped up tonight and when you amp up guys that are fresh then they can get a little more push out of their press than they normally can. Tonight was one of those nights. Now, if they had to come back tomorrow night and replicate that, it might be a little bit more difficult. But we got their big night. They were really good tonight and you have to give them credit for being really good because they were good for two halves. They consistently played well on offense but I think their defense really keyed their offense tonight.”

Southwood was paced by Gabe Lloyd’s 16 points, 13 of those coming in the second half. Holmes finished with 10 and Rich seven as the Knights dropped their third straight contest.

Wabash (8-1) moves to 4-0 in the Three Rivers Conference and will meet Manchester on the road in its next contest on Jan. 11. Southwood (3-7) will renew its rivalry with Oak Hill on Tuesday at home with tip set for 7:30 p.m.