ELIDA — The Coldwater Cavaliers were determined to not let Columbus Grove’s Paige Bellman beat them in the Division III district semifinals Thursday night.
In the first half, Coldwater’s strategy was paying off as the Cavs limited Bellman to nine points, and even though Columbus Grove led 22-18 after the first period, the Cavaliers were within striking distance in hopes of building on their defensive effort of stopping the junior post.
With Bellman being shrouded by a host of Cavs. Columbus Grove needed someone else to deliver some offense. Instead a trio of Bulldogs, Rylee Sybert, Jade Clement and Carlee McCluer, stepped up and delivered clutch baskets from the outside in the second half to propel Columbus Grove a 51-31 victory.
Columbus Grove will face Liberty-Benton in the district final at 2 p.m. Saturday. Coldwater ends its season at 18-6.
“I thought how we started the second half was the key for us with Rylee Sybert hitting some big shots for us and we got some stops when we needed to and that was huge,” Columbus Grove head coach Brian Schroeder said.
With precision perimeter shooting spearheading the Columbus Grove offense, the Bulldogs outscored the Cavaliers 10-3 and by the 4:18 mark, Columbus Grove had opened a 32-21 lead. In the quick offensive outburst. Sybert, Clement and McCluer all hit key 3-pointers to break open the close contest.
By the time the third quarter ended, the Columbus Grove threesome had scored a combined 16 points and the Bulldogs owned a owned a 12-point lead, 38-26.
Groves’ tenacious defense was also instrumental in Groves’ decisive run to open the second half. In the first three minutes of the second half, the Cavaliers could barely get it up court as they committed three turnovers. By the time the disastrous eight minutes ended for Coldwater, the Cavaliers had committed seven turnovers and managed eight points.
Columbus Grove put the game away when they scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter to garner a 20-point advantage, 46-26 with 6:09 left in the game. The Cavaliers, who would not score their first bucket until the 2:49 mark and managed just five points in the final stanza. In the second half, Columbus Grove outscored Coldwater 29-13.
For the game, Coldwater would finish with 23 turnovers.
“That is about the story of the game right there,” said. Coldwater head coach Connie May about her team’s miscues. “I don’t think we played scared in the first half but in the second half we started to think too much. I think that was the bottom line. We really made some poor decisions. But hats off to Grove and their defense.”
Sybert finished the game with 12 points and was 3-for-3 from behind the 3-point arc. Clement and McCluer each finished with 11 points. The trio of Sybert, Clement and McCluer were a combined 13 of 21 from the field.
Schroeder said that Sybert, who is a first-year player, primary role is to bring the ball up and find the open player but with Coldwater clamping down on Clement and Bellman, she found herself open decided to make things happen herself and take the shot.
Bellman, who produced a double-double and led the team with 14 points and 12 rebounds, was the offensive mainstay early primarily with her rebounding and free throw shooting. The junior post player was 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
“She didn’t finish like she normally does and a lot of it was her balance but she was active on the boards and she had 12 boards and five were offensive boards so that gave us extra shots,” Schroeder said.
Coldwater’s Courtney Diller was the lone Cav to score in double digits with 17 points.
Fort Recovery 37
Liberty-Benton held off a late Fort Recovery surge to post a 43-37 victory over Fort Recovery to advance in the Division III district semifinal game. The Eagles will face Columbus Grove in the district finals at Elida Saturday at 2 p.m. Fort Recovery ends its season with a 19-4 mark.
LIberty-Benton’s Jenson Hiegel led the Eagles with 15 points and Caitlin Elseser scored seven points and grabbed eight rebounds.
For Fort Recovery, Jocelyn Kaiser scored 14 points.
Liberty Benton was 12-28 (42 percent) from the floor and Fort Recovery was 14 of 49 (28 percent).
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on Twitter @JoseNogueras1.