Apaches capture sectional crown

Manchester's Weston Hamby attempts to get a shot off against Wabash in the finals of the Oak Hill basketball sectional on Saturday evening. Photo by Eric Christiansen

By Eric Christiansen

MIER -- Fifty-two years.

Over five decades of promise and goals in November, only to fall short in March.

The wait is over. Wabash High School has a boys basketball champion again.

The Apaches needed every second of the 32 minutes in the game and finally held the championship trophy high above their heads Saturday, March 2 after defeating Manchester 63-60.

“I can't describe the feeling. It's awesome,” Wabash head coach Paul Wright said. “I'm happy for the kids. When you see a team work so hard, day in and day out … they deserve it.”

“This is amazing!” Elijah Vander Velden said

“We won the game defensively, and we didn't change a thing all year,” Blake Gribben said.

Wright has been on the Wabash coaching staff for 14 years, with the last six years as head coach.

“It's just a great feeling,” he said. “I wasn't able to win one as a player at Southwood. It's nice to finally get one.

“This is great for this program, this town. It's awesome.”

Manchester coach Mark Underwood was disappointed with the outcome, but gracious in defeat.

“Even though we couldn't get it done, I'm glad for Wabash that they did,” he said. “I congratulate them. If we couldn't do it, I'm glad it's a county team.”

As both teams tried to feel each other out in the opening minutes, things stayed even. Five different Apaches, Trenton Daughtry, Elijah Vander Velden, Logan Vander Velden, Dereck Vogel and Blake Gribben all scored baskets, while Manchester's Weston Hamby dropped in nine of the Squires' first 10 points for a 10-10 tie with 3:30 left in the quarter.

Wabash was first to make a big move scoring eight straight points on a drive from Gribben and two 3-pointers from Jasper Walter to lead 16-8 with 1:38 left in the first.

Hamby answered with a 3-point play, followed by a basket from Brayden Casper to cut the Wabash lead to 16-13 after one quarter.

Kreeden Krull made it a one-point game as the Squire scored inside, but the second quarter would belong to Wabash's Daughtry.

The Apache junior scored 10 points, including two 3-pointers.

Manchester, however, found their groove with more team play as Max Carter answered two of Daughtry's baskets, and followed a Casper basket with a 3-pointer to cut the Apache lead to 26-24 with 1:58 left in the half.

Daughtry responded with a 3-pointer, followed by basket from Vogel for a seven-point lead, and went to the locker room up 33-26 at halftime.

During the 10-minute break, a fitting song, Journey's “Don't Stop Believin'” played on the gym speakers, and both student sections had their own dance and sing-a-long at each end of the gym as play was ready to resume.

Hamby and Kam Lester accounted for 16 of Manchester's 18 points in the third, but Wabash had an answer for each basket.
Lester started the half with a steal and fast break layup, but Gribben hit a jumper for Wabash.

Hamby connected on a 3-pointer, and Gribben scored 19 seconds later.

The pattern continued five more times until Kreeden Krull scored with three seconds left to get Manchester to within one point, trailing the Apaches 45-44 going into the final eight minutes.

With three quarters of fast-paced basketball in the books, the fourth quarter looked like a different basketball game.

Wabash was 3-of-6 from the free throw line in the first three quarters, then spent most of the fourth quarter at the line. The Apaches shot 16-22 from the line in the fourth quarter and connected on just one basket, while the Squires were 5-7 from the line in the fourth quarter, but kept pace with five field goals.

Wabash led by as many as seven points in the quarter before the Squires gave one last push.

Daughtry gave the Apaches a 60-54 lead with 1:57 left, but Hamby scored seven seconds later to cut it to 60-56.

The teams traded a miss each and a turnover each, and Casper cut the Wabash lead to 60-57 with 33 seconds left.

Kallen Kelsheimer was fouled with 24.9 seconds left to give the Apaches a 61-57 lead after hitting 1-of-2 from the line.

Hamby tried to make it a one-possession game but missed a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left. The Squires grabbed the rebound, and Hamby hit his second attempt with 9.3 seconds left to cut it to 61-60.

Daughtry was quickly fouled and hit both free throws for a 63-60 Wabash lead with 7.2 seconds left, setting up Manchester's final chance.

Hamby took the inbounds pass on the right side of the court. He pulled up at the volleyball line on the right corner to try to tie it up. His shot bounced off the rim, but Casper was there for Manchester for the rebound. The Squire senior found Caleb Stout in the left corner for the game-tying attempt, but Stout's shot was long as the buzzer sounded, and the Apaches celebrated.

“I'm at a loss for words,” Wright said. “Manchester is an excellent team, and they all played well. We wanted to make them feel uncomfortable in all things. I thought we did just good enough.”

Daughtry echoed his coach's sentiments.

“They are a great team. Wes (Hamby) is a great player,” he said. “I knew Manchester was going to be a fight coming in.”
“This is Wabash County basketball. It's just a great feeling,” Wright said.

Daughtry led the Apaches with 30 points with a 17-of-20 effort from the free throw line. He added eight rebounds to his totals. Jasper Walter followed with 10 points, Gribben had nine, Logan Vander Velden had five, followed by Vogel with four, Elijah Vander Velden and Jared Holley with two each, and Kelsheimer with one.

For Manchester, Hamby led the way with 31 points and eight rebounds, followed by Carter with nine points and eight rebounds, Lester with nine points and four rebounds, Casper with seven points, five rebounds and three assists, and Krull with four points and three rebounds.

Manchester ends the season with a 14-11 record, while the Apaches continue their march to regional with a 21-4 mark.

Wabash will face Frankton in the opening game of the Lapel Regional Saturday, March 9 at 10:30 a.m.

Covington and Alexandria face off in the second game at noon.

The championship game is scheduled for 8 p.m. that night.

Posted on 2019 Mar 05