But even still, the Crimson Flashes were in position to potentially weather the storm late in the first half of Wednesday’s Division III regional semifinal game at the Stroh Center on the campus of Bowling Green.
However, just as fast — things got away from the Flashes in a sequence head coach Joe Bedingfield wished his team had back.
Junior Terry Baldridge had connected on a jumper to cut the Willard deficit to 38-28 with 49 seconds left in the first half.
Coldwater’s Justin Schwieterman responded 15 seconds later to push the lead back up to 12 (40-28) — but Willard had the chance to either take the final shot of the half, or at least score to get the deficit back down to 10 or even nine points.
Instead, a running shot attempt by Cooper Parrott rimmed out and the Cavaliers got the rebound.
Noah Miller then drilled a jumper, and the Flashes turned it over — sending Coldwater into the break with a 42-28 lead. That was one of the key blows in the season-ending 75-54 loss.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve played from behind, and there are a few possessions I wish we could have back,” Bedingfield said. “I think right before half, had we kept it at 10 or got closer … it seemed like we could have still been alright. That’s probably the spot I wish we could have back.”
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers (18-9) burned the Flashes from deep over the course of all four quarters. They were 12-of-21 (57 percent) from beyond the arc compared to 3 of 12 for Willard (19-4). That meant a 36-9 scoring advantage alone from the three-point line in a 21-point loss.
“They shot the ball extremely well, and that’s a credit to them,” Bedingfield said. “We were worried about their high-low plays inside coming in. They can throw it in, but when they started going in from deep, it was kind of a pick your poison scenario we were facing.
“Unfortunately we never got consecutive stops,” he added. “We might have gotten one, but never two or three.”
Willard saw its 17-game win streak come to an end on a night Bedingfield didn’t feel his team played a strong defensive game.
“I can’t say I was happy about anything with our defense tonight,” he said. “We didn’t use our length as well as we have in the past. That’s what we had been successful with, making teams shoot a low-percentage.
“We got beat on the back screens underneath,” he added. “But credit Coldwater. We knew this would be a tough game. They came in with wins over Archbold and O-G, and are just on a roll right now.”
Cavaliers tournament run
Coldwater was just 13-9 in the regular season, though it lost six of those games by four points or less to stout competition. It was also 0-4 to start the season.
However, in the last week alone, the Cavs have taken down three of the most accomplished mid-sized programs in Ohio history.
In the district semifinals on March 7, the Cavs edged Associated Press poll champion and unbeaten Archbold, 35-34. Two days later, they took down Ottawa-Glandorf, 70-67, to advance to Wednesday’s game against the Flashes.
Combined, Archbold, Glandorf and Willard have 19 state semifinal appearances, three state titles and three runners-up finishes.
Wednesday’s game was a rematch of one of the more iconic games in Willard basketball history.
In the same regional semifinal round in 1982 at Toledo, the Flashes used two last-second free throws from Rex Adams to beat the Cavs, 64-63. They went on to beat Swanton, 54-51, before falling to Dayton Roth and Keith Byers in the state semifinals.