KALIDA – Kalida had the lead only once in the second half Saturday night against visiting Wayne Trace but the Wildcats did it at the most important in recording a 52-51 win over the Raiders.

Trailing 51-49 in the final seconds, E.J. Miller made his only shot of the game count in a big way as he hit a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to give the Putnam County squad the victory.

“We played really good defense on him all night long but he hit a big shot for them there,” noted Raider head coach Jim Linder. “We knew he was a shooter for them and we focused on him all night. They made a big play though there at the end.”

After the Wildcats posted a 17-16 advantage midway through the second quarter following a pair of Jaden Smith free throws, Wayne Trace answered with eight straight points.

A three-point play by Tanner Laukhuf sparked the Raider run with Brooks Laukhuf adding another old fashioned three-point play for a 22-17 advantage.

Brooks Laukhuf picked up another bucket for a 24-17 Wayne Trace lead before Kalida’s Joel Horstman connected from three-point land to get the Wildcats within 24-20 at the halfway point.

“We had opportunities but just couldn’t take advantage,” Linder continued. “There were so many times that we could have added to the lead and didn’t or that they hit a big shot. It’s a game we need to learn from and become a better team out of it.”

Tanner Laukhuf opened the second half scoring for Wayne Trace with back-to-back three-pointers, pushing the Raider advantage to 30-22.

However, every time the Raiders tried to widen the gap saw Kalida always have an answer.

Six straight Evan Stechschulte points quickly brought the Wildcats within 30-28 but Wayne Trace responded.

Two Brooks Laukhuf buckets and a Kyle Stoller two-pointer pushed the Raider lead back to 36-28 as the Paulding County squad went on top post a 38-33 lead entering the final stanza.

A bucket by Stechschulte and a three-point shot from Drew Fersch sliced the Kalida deficit back to 40-38 early in the fourth quarter but the red, white and blue quickly answered.

Treys by Tanner Laukhuf and Tyler Davis extended the margin to 46-38 and Wayne Trace led 50-41 with just over three minutes remaining after a Stoller bucket.

Kalida, though, made one final run.

Two Fersch foul shots and a Jaden Smith basket helped get the Wildcats back within 50-46 before Hudson Myers hit one of two free throws to give Wayne Trace a 51-46 lead.

It would be the final point of the night, though, for the Raiders.

Stechschulte hit a three-pointer for Kalida on the Wildcats’ possession and, after a missed Raider free throw, the Putnam County squad got the game-winning shot from Miller to complete the rally and post the 52-51 victory.

“We made some mistakes and they made us pay,” Linder concluded. “It’s a tough loss but we have to bounce back with a league game next Friday and a very good Tiffin Columbian squad Saturday.”

Stechschulte led the way for Kalida with 16 points while Ethan Warnecke and Fersch both totaled ten markers. Jaden Smith (seven), Joel Horstman (six) and Miller (three) also scored for Kalida, which improved to 13-4 on the year with the victory.

Brooks Laukhuf led the way for Wayne Trace with 22 points while Tanner Laukhuf chipped in a dozen markers and Kyle Stoller had 11 points.

Davis and Stoller each had six rebounds to lead the red, white and blue with Davis adding three assists. Stoller chipped in two assists and three steals for Wayne Trace.

Kalida also captured the junior varsity contest with a 43-35 win over the Raiders.

Griffin Klausing had a dozen markers and five rebounds for the Wildcats while Jaxon Hoffman and Eli Patrick both contributed eight points. Braylon Smith and Nathan Kahle both chipped in five points as well for the Wildcats followed by Logan Kerner (three) and Parker Vorst (two).

Hoffman also had five boards for Kalida with Kahle dishing out three assists. Smith picked up two steals for the Wildcats.

Caden Sinn paced Wayne Trace with 14 points and Lance Maenle picked up a dozen markers for the Raiders. Tyson Gerber (four), Brady Miller (three) and Carter Clemens (two) had the remaining Raider points.

The Wildcats host Miller City in a Putnam County League battle Friday night before visiting Wapakoneta for a non-league affair Saturday evening. Meanwhile, Wayne Trace will travel to Fairview in Green Meadows Conference play Friday night before taking on Tiffin Columbian in the 3:15 p.m. contest at the Ottawa Glandorf Winter Classic on Saturday.