In a return to the stifling and oppressive manner that got the team to the state championship, the Jeeps hounded Columbus Grove from the get-go on Saturday. The Bulldogs appeared befuddled for most of the quarter, and South Webster rolled to a 27-12 lead after the first eight minutes.
The Jeeps had led by as much as 18, 25-7, with 2:20 left to go in the first quarter. Columbus Grove would not get much closer, and South Webster raced its way to a state title.
“I think our defensive pressure really got to them,” said Jeeps coach Marc Kreischer. “We thought that we could extend pressure on them, cause them to commit turnovers and get some easy baskets. Luckily, it worked out for us.”
Coming out slow against No. 10 Lockland on Thursday, Kreischer was determined to not let his team have a similar performance against the Bulldogs. The Jeeps frustrated Columbus Grove into bad shots or bad passes throughout the opening quarter.
And if the Bulldogs made bad passes, South Webster's Brigham Waginger was sure to be there to make them pay. The senior, playing in his second straight state championship game, picked five steals on the night and made life miserable for Columbus Grove guards, including sharpshooter Eric Maag.
One of the Bulldogs' leading scorers, Maag scored 31 points against Windham in Thursday's other semifinal. Against the Jeeps, Maag was just 1-of-13 from the field, and was faced with the rotation of Waginger, Josh Campbell and Ryan McClintic throughout the contest.
“Since we didn't shoot the ball well on Thursday, we wanted to come out and get going defensive-wise because our defense leads into our offense. Nick got out into transition at the beginning, I got a couple of steals that got me going offensively, and I am just speechless,” said Waginger. “We got after it defensively, and I don't think that we let them breathe in the first half. They only had 22 points, and Kyle Meyer had 11 of them. I give a lot of credit to McClintic and Campbell for doing a great job on Maag.”
“I think McClintic and Campbell took the matchup with Maag personally, and they did not allow him to score in the first half,” he said. “That is a tremendous unsung effort, and they did a great job of allowing him to get nothing.”
The first quarter proved to be a taste of things to come for the Jeeps, who never let up. South Webster forced 15 turnovers in the game, leading to 24 fast-break points. And even if the Jeeps didn't score on the break, they still found a way to put the ball into the basket, outscoring the Bulldogs 56-20 in the paint and keeping the advantage around the 20-point mark.
“We were happy to keep them at bay a little bit in the second half,” said Kreischer. “We did a good job of attacking without letting them get back into the game. Often, you may take some bad shots and the other team makes a run, but we kept it around 15-25 in the second half.”