LIBERTY CENTER - The Northwest Ohio Athletic League race just became a little more up in the air thanks to a gritty effort by a Liberty Center team on a mission.
The Tigers delivered Wauseon its first league defeat of the season by pulling out a 41-39 win last night on their home court.
Brian Babcock pumped in a game-high 13 points while Kasey Bodenbender came through with 10 to lead Liberty Center (6-4, 4-1).
Jake Reckner scored a team-high 10 points for Wauseon (8-4, 4-1).
"It's a good momentum boost for us to go 4-1 in the league," said Babcock, who scored eight of his points after halftime. "This is a big jump up for us."
Liberty Center coach Dave Grim commended his team for holding off a formidable opponent down the stretch after leading by as many as eight points during the final quarter.
"I think we played really well," Grim said. "Our kids executed and made some big shots in the fourth quarter and were able to hold on."
Wauseon entered the game looking to increase its lead in the league race over Liberty Center, which entered the contest tied with Archbold for second place.
However, the Indians, who made only 9 of 15 foul shots compared to a 3-for-4 effort by the Tigers, couldn't deliver.
"It was a game of spurts," Wauseon coach Ken Burgei said. "They came out and made the first spurt and they did a good job of taking care of the basketball. We had to work hard to get back in it."
The Tigers took a 17-10 lead into halftime after opening the game with an 8-0 lead.
The Indians put together an impressive rally of their own after halftime to get back into the game. They opened the third quarter with a 9-2 run and actually went ahead for the first time when Reckner scored on a falling layup to give Wauseon a 20-19 advantage with 5:37 to play in the period.
Liberty Center regained the lead when Bodenbender drained a 3-pointer to make it 22-20 with 4:05 to play in the third quarter.
Wauseon reclaimed the lead late in the quarter when Raymond Martinez knocked down his second 3-pointer during the period to give the Indians a 27-24 edge.
Babcock came back to tie the score at 27 when he knocked down a 3-pointer with 1:09 to play in the third quarter.
Liberty Center and Wauseon went into the final period with the score even at 27.
The Tigers opened the fourth quarter the way they had opened the game, striking fast while holding their own on the defensive end against the Indians' bruising front line of Reckner, who stands 6-2, and Elliott Mealer, a 6-4 freshman.
Liberty Center outscored Wauseon 9-1 to start the fourth quarter and grab momentum. The Indians would never fully recover.
The Indians, who attempted 11 more free throws than the Tigers, missed three during the final period.
"We've been making our free throws, but we didn't shoot them well tonight," Burgei said. "That wasn't the difference in the game because there were a lot of plays throughout the game you can look back at."
Liberty Center came through with more plays on the night to tighten up the league race.
"Now everyone in the league has at least one loss," Grim said. "Now we control our own destiny."
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