TOLEDO — Okaw Valley stayed with Cumberland through the first half as its 2-3 zone caused the Pirates to make 12 turnovers. The Pirates led 22-18 at the half of Friday's non-division boys basketball game between two Little Okaw Valley Conference schools. Cumberland's Zach Wolke came out on fire in the third quarter, making 6-of-8 shots from the field, including 4-of-6 from beyond the 3-point line and the Pirates' 1-2-2 defense (switched from a man-to-man) caused the Timberwolves to go 3-for-13 in the third. Cumberland led by as much as 19 in the third quarter and went on to win 54-38.
"Zach is a good shooter," said Cumberland coach Justin Roedl, whose team improved to 9-4 overall. "He and I talked over the last couple of days. I told him to keep shooting the ball and to be confident. He is too good of a shooter not to shoot. He usually shoots well here in the home gym and it is what I expect."
Wolke finished with 19 points.
Wolke hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the third quarter as the Pirates went on a 21-6 run in the first 6:45 of the second half. A basket by Tyson Magee, who led all players with 23 points and 13 rebounds, made it 30-18. Okaw Valley's Trey Yarnell scored and Garrett Fritz made one to make it 32-21. Wolke sank another 3-pointer and a basket. Magee made one of two free throws for a 38-21 lead. Magee's basket with 1:15 remaining in the third pushed the lead to 43-24. Okaw Valley didn't get closer than 13 the remainder of the game.
"We got things going and picked up the pace in the second half, which is what we wanted to do in the first half," said Roedl, whose team entered the contest averaging 63.3 points per game. "The problem was we turned the ball over entirely too much in the first half. Two of them were turnovers I can live with; the other 10 were unforced errors – us being lazy and complacent with their zone. They were spread out and we kind of passed the ball and held on to it. We didn't move the ball real well. When you turn the ball over it is hard to get into your defensive sets to create some offense.
"We talked about taking care of the basketball a little bit at halftime. We changed our offensive look a little bit, and once we were able to get some half-court buckets, we were able to get into our 1-2-2 (press). We have been working on it a lot. I thought tonight it took a step forward. We did some nice things. We had some mistakes, but we did some good things out of it."
Okaw Valley starters averaged three and a half inches less than Cumberland's, but the Timberwolves were able to stay within striking distance in the first half.
"For being in that position that we are in, we were lucky we were not down more at halftime," said Okaw Valley coach Brooks Inman, whose team fell to 7-8. "We turned the ball over way too much tonight (16 turnovers). We have not done that in a long time. We have to take care of the ball better. Wolke came out and was going to try and score every time. He made a couple of contested shots. He made a couple of open shots. Cumberland steamrolled us in the third quarter. When you get outscored 21-11, that is a big difference in the game. We were not able to get a stop when we needed one. For some reason, our guys were not very focused on their press and we have to get better at that."
Okaw Valley was 4-of-10 from 3-point range in the first half to keep them close and was only outrebounded 14-10. Cumberland ended up winning the battle of the boards 31-20.
"Their strength and physicality got to us," said Inman. "Really for three of the four quarters we played pretty well, but that is our problem. We have to put a full game together."
Okaw Valley shot just 31 percent from the field and was led in scoring by Jared Bunfill with 13, while Sam Hagerman added 11. The Timberwolves did go 7-of-16 (.438) from 3-point range.
Cumberland shot 51 percent from the field, including 13-of-24 (.542) in the second half. The Pirates were 8-of-15 (.533) from 3-point range.
Cumberland trailed only once in the first half, and that was 3-0 after Sam Hagerman opened the scoring with a 3-pointer. The Pirates scored 10 unanswered points against the Timberwolves' 2-3 zone, including 3-pointers by Wolke and Brennyn Cutts, a freshman. A stop-and-pop 12-footer by Magee made it 10-3, Pirates. Cumberland led by as much as nine, 22-13, on a layup by Magee with 2:38 left in the half. The Pirates led 22-18 at the break.
Cumberland has won seven of its last eight games prior to the contest, including a 58-44 win over St. Elmo/Brownstown last Tuesday (avenging the lone loss during that time in a 60-44 setback to SE/B in the championship of the St. Elmo Holiday Tournament). It was the first night of a new scoreboard which includes keeping track of individual points.
It was Okaw Valley's first game of 2018 with Dec. 28 the last time the team played as they earned third place in the Dieterich Holiday Tournament 55-40 over Arcola.
Okaw Valley is to play host to Neoga on Saturday at 1 p.m., while Cumberland is to travel to Clinton for a shootout Saturday against Maroa-Forsyth at 1:30 p.m.