Perrysburg’s Hailey Wenzelman drives to the basket against Napoleon’s Jenny Waisner during the Yellow Jackets’ victory. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Senior guard Hailey Wenzelman scored a game-high 17 points, and junior forward Ashlynn Brown added 12 points and seven rebounds Thursday night, lifting Perrysburg to a 44-28 girls basketball victory against visiting Napoleon, and giving the Yellow Jackets an outright Northern Lakes League championship.
Perrysburg (13-9, 12-2 NLL) got off to a slow start, missing 10 of its first 11 shots from the field, but regrouped quickly to launch a game-changing 13-0 run for a 15-6 lead 1:14 into the second quarter.
The Jackets pushed their lead to 21-12 by halftime, and the Wildcats (9- 13, 6-8) fell behind 27-14 early in the third.
IN PICTURES: Perrysburg 44, Napoleon 28
They got no closer than 11 thereafter.
“For some reason with this team we always start off slow, so I think knowing it was senior night and we wanted to win the NLL, we had to pick it up,” Wenzelman said. “We weren’t going to win it playing bad, so we hard to play our hardest the whole game. Winning this was an amazing feeling.”
Perrysburg, which won its third NLL title in five seasons, ended the two-year championship run of Northview.
“It was an emotional night and I knew it would be tough,” Perrysburg coach Todd Sims said of securing the crown on senior night. “But once we got our legs under us, I thought we did OK. The second quarter we started to stretch it out a little bit.
“We didn’t shoot well the whole night really, but defensively I thought we were really good most of the night. They were ready to play tonight. Being NLL champions was important to them, and it was important to me.”
The Yellow Jackets opened NLL play with 10 consecutive wins before losing two of their next three games (to Northview and Anthony Wayne) to add some drama to the league’s title chase.
Bethany Blackwood and Olivia Behnfeldt led Napoleon with seven points apiece, and Behnfeldt also grabbed seven rebounds.
Wenzelman sparked Perrysburg’s crucial run with two free throws with 3:27 left in the first, and added a bucket on a driving layup two minutes later.
After Cameron Clark opened the second with a 3-pointer for the Jackets, Kristina DeMarco followed with a layup off a steal for a 13-6 Perrysburg lead seven minutes before halftime.
Brown capped the surge with an inside bucket 14 seconds later before Napoleon called a timeout.
“I wanted to get the ball to Ashlynn Brown, because I know we’re very good when we get it to our post,” Wenzelman said.
“We distributed the ball real well, going in and out.
“They did a good job of doubling our post because they know it’s one of our strengths, so I think we did really well in not forcing it, and getting good shots.”
Perrysburg enjoyed its biggest lead at 18 points on four occasions in the third and fourth quarters before emptying its bench.
“We were picked to win the league with one returning starter when other teams had three and four and five, so I was surprised when I saw that because I didn’t pick us first,” Sims said.
“I would have liked to have clinched [the title] earlier than this, but it ended up being a great night for the seniors to clinch it outright on the last night of the [regular] season.”
The Yellow Jackets won easily despite a modest 35 percent shooting effort (18 of 51) from the field, including a 2-for-15 showing from 3s.
The Jackets, who also got six points and six rebounds from Tori Kopp, hit all six of their free-throw attempts, and out-rebounded the smaller Wildcats 37-28. Perrysburg forced 13 Napoleon turnovers and committed 10.
The Wildcats were just 12-of-41 (29 percent) from the field, missing all 10 of their 3s, and were 4-for-9 at the line.
“All year we’ve gone through periods where we struggle to score, and their size obviously gave us some problems,” Napoleon coach Corey Kreinbrink said. “If we can’t score inside the paint, then we really struggle.
“We went through too long of a period where we didn’t score, and they executed offensively and knocked down some shots. Ultimately, that got us behind the eight ball too much with our inability to score.”
Napoleon’s Kylie Cramer, left, and Perrysburg’s Cameron Clark battle for a loose ball during the Yellow Jackets’ victory in the NLL game on Thursday in Perrysburg. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Perrysburg’s Madison Adamski, left, tries to grab the ball away from Napoleon’s Olivia Behnfeldt on Thursday night. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH