Friday, March 3rd, 2017
Cavs, Indians bow out of tournament
By Gary R. Rasberry
Fort Recovery's Jocelyn Kaiser, 32, drives past Liberty-Benton's Caitlin Elseser. . .
ELIDA - For Coldwater, it was turnovers.
For Fort Recovery, is was struggling to make shots.
Those factors played key roles in both teams' having their seasons ended at the Division III girls basketball district semifinals at the Elida Fieldhouse on Thursday.
The Cavaliers committed 24 turnovers, which fifth-ranked Columbus Grove converted into points in a 51-31 win in the opening tame.
In the nightcap, early shooting struggles by the Indians allowed Liberty-Benton to jump out to a 10-point lead at halftime. Fort Recovery bounced back and got back within three points later before the Eagles held on for a 43-37 win in a battle of teams that were both ranked eighth in the final state poll.
Grove (23-1) and Liberty-Benton (21-3) play for a berth to the regional tournament on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Elida. The Bulldogs beat the Eagles 38-28 on Jan. 31.
Columbus Grove 51, Coldwater 31
The first quarter started out well for the 13th-ranked Cavaliers (18-6), who were without the services of the injured Olivia Harlamert. Maura Hoying put the Cavaliers in front 8-7 with 46 seconds left in the quarter and then Lauren Gilliland beat the buzzer with a jumper just inside the arc to give Coldwater a 10-7 lead after one.
Grove was quick to respond. Paige Bellman, the Player of the Year in both the Northwest Conference and Putnam County League, scored five straight points to start the second quarter to put the Bulldogs up 12-10. Kourtney Diller knotted the game at 12, but Rylee Sybert knocked down a three-pointer to put the Bulldogs back in front 15-12. Hoying later added a basket to cut the Cavs' deficit to 17-14, but Grove went on a 5-0 run up 22-14 with 1:10 left in the half. Diller and Gilliland hit late buckets to get the Cavaliers back to within four at 22-18 at the half.
"In the first half, we kept that balance (between defending the three and inside) pretty well," Coldwater coach Connie May said. "The defense wasn't near as good in the second half."
The defensive pressure that allowed Columbus Grove to force seven Coldwater turnovers in the second quarter picked up the pace in the third quarter as the Bulldogs went on a 7-0 run over the first three minutes. Coldwater turned the ball over on three of its first five possessions and missed shots until Diller was able to knock down a trey with 5:07 left in the quarter. The Cavaliers managed just five more points in the third quarter as Grove got three-pointers from Carlee McCluer and Jade Clement to push the Bulldogs' lead to 38-26 after three quarters.
"We got tired. No doubt," May said. "We fought through a lot of adversity this season with injuries, so that's nothing new."
In the fourth quarter, Macy McCluer and Sybert hit treys and Bellman added five more points as the lead moved up to 20 as both teams began wholesale substitutions.
"I don't think we played a scared first half, but the second half, we started to think too much (and) really made some poor decisions," May said. "Hat's off to Grove and their defense. They make you do that."
Bellman finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs. Sybert finished with 12 and Carlee McCluer and Clement each scored 11.
Diller finisehd with a game-high 17 points for Coldwater.
Liberty-Benton 43, Fort Recovery 37
The Indians' defense was up to the challenge of the Eagles. Unfortunately, the Indians struggled with their shooting early and missed several layups. Nearly three minutes elapsed off the game clock before Jocelyn Kaiser scored the first bucket of the game. Savanah Richards quickly put the Eagles in front 3-2 with a trey, starting a 10-1 run that put L-B up 10-3 with under three minutes to play. Grace Thien stopped the run with a three-pointer of her own, but Schy - pronounced Sky - Shepherd countered with a triple of her own to put the Eagles up 13-6 after eight minutes of play.
"The difference is we didn't finish on the offensive end," said Fort Recovery Brian Patch, whose team was just 5-of-22 from the field in the first half. "No matter what (Liberty-Benton) did, we missed five layups to start the game. Even with those threes, we hit layups, we're still in the game."
Richards knocked down another trey to start the second quarter to put the Eagles up 16-6 before a mini-run led by buckets from Carley Stone and free throws from Kelsey Will got the Indians to within four at 18-14 with just over two minutes to play. The Eagles countered with a trey from Sydney Lasiter and a bucket and free throw from Blanchard Valley Conference Player of the Year Jensen Hiegel gave the Eagles a 10-point lead at 24-14 at the half.
Hiegel buried a three-pointer to start the third quarter as Liberty-Benton tried to put the game away quickly. Kaiser, one of three Fort Recovery seniors, was determined not to let her career end so soon. Will scored eight of the Indians' 13 points in the quarter to halve the deficit to 32-27 going into the fourth quarter.
"That's what you want from a senior," Patch said of Kaiser. "She doesn't want this year to end. She gave everything she had."
Stone's stickback to start the fourth quarter got the Indians within a possession at 32-29 but even with the Eagles missing early free throws, Fort Recovery could not get any closer as Liberty-Benton pushed back its lead up to five at 36-31 midway through the period. Fort Recovery kept fighting. Will hit free throws and Kaiser managed a couple more buckets, but Shepherd hit four straight free throws and Richards and Caitlin Elseser each hit one free throw down the stretch to keep the Indians at bay.
"We did a lot of good things. The only thing we didn't do is finish," Patch said. "We shoot 30 percent from the floor and our two leading scorers (Will and Thien) make two field goals (combined), it's going to be hard to win ballgames."
Hiegel was the only Eagle to reach double figures with 15 points. Richards added nine.
Kaiser finished with 14 points. Will added nine points.