Perrysburg High clinched the Northern Lakes League boys basketball championship a few games before longtime rival Maumee stepped inside the Yellow Jackets' new gymnasium last night.
But that didn't stop the Yellow Jackets from playing as if the NLL title were still in doubt.
Perrysburg finished out the regular season by pulling away from Maumee late in the game to produce a 48-34 victory.
The Yellow Jackets, ranked No. 4 in the Blade's Division I poll, led the Panthers by just four points heading into the fourth quarter. They opened the final period with a 16-2 run to secure the win.
Perrysburg, which heads into the state tournament with a first-round bye, finished the regular season 13-1 in the NLL and 16-4 overall.
“This game is so different from all the others because it's such a rivalry,” Perrysburg coach Dave Boyce said. “We thought it would be a battle and it was.”
Hal Munger and Mike Mefferd led the Yellow Jackets with 10 points apiece. Munger also grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots.
The Yellow Jackets handled the pressure of playing against a rival in an otherwise meaningless game. They fought off a letdown knowing a loss couldn't steal away their league title.
“It's still a key game for us because we have to keep the momentum going into the playoffs,” said Perrysburg's Mark Badenhop, who scored five of his seven points in the fourth quarter. “It was a huge game for our pride and for momentum going into the tournament.
“We have to keep the ball rolling.”
David Perez and Dan Noward paced Maumee with 10 points apiece. The Panthers, who dropped to 6-8 in league and 11-9 overall, fell behind 16-6 in the first quarter and were faced with trying to chase down the Yellow Jackets the remainder of the contest. They fought back to within two points of the Yellow Jackets in the third quarter but came up short of taking over the lead.
As has been the case most nights this NLL season, Perrysburg found ways to maintain the lead.
“I think they're a very talented team,” said Maumee coach Jim Robinson of the Yellow Jackets. “I think our kids competed extremely hard tonight. We got behind early, but we fought back.
“All in all, they're a championship team for a reason. They showed that tonight. They wanted to beat their rival.”
The Yellow Jackets' lead had decreased to four points heading into the fourth quarter.
But Perrysburg was able to put away Maumee by limiting the Panthers to just a pair of free throws by Adam Russell through the first six minutes of the quarter.
“You have to give the defense credit for never letting [the Panthers] take control of the game,” Boyce said.
It was another complete team effort for Perrysburg. Mike Dhondt and John Pittmann combined for 12 points off the bench.