BATH TOWNSHIP — Cool and collected at crunch time.
It didn’t happen often like that for Elida girls basketball last year.
But it went down that way in the opener.
Elida’s press took hold and new point guard junior Hayleigh Bacome kept her team under control in a 40-38 Elida victory over Findlay on the opening night of the girls basketball Bath Tip-Off Classic on Friday at Bath.
“That was huge,” Elida coach Chrissy Billiter said, after going 7-16 last year. “Just to get this first win and to actually be smart was unreal. We needed it. We needed this first win.’’
In the second game of the night, Bath’s man press was the difference in the Wildkittens’ 43-27 victory over New Knoxville.
“That’s (the press) going to be our bread and butter because we are too quick and athletic to not press,” Billiter said.
New Knoxville will play Findlay in the 6 p.m. consolation game tonight.
Bath will play Elida in the championship game at 8.
Findlay jumped out to an 11-0 lead. Elida came back to get within 14-6 after the first quarter.
The Trojans led 20-13 at the half, but the Elida zone presses fully clamped down in the third quarter.
Findlay, which ended up with 22 turnovers, couldn’t handle the Elida pressure in the third. That helped Elida get within 29-27 after three.
Elida took the lead to stay 35-33 on Shyah Wheeler’s two free throws with 3:04 to go.
Wheeler had 14 points and seven rebounds for Elida.
Amiah Jones had 10 points for Elida.
Bacome, a junior who started at the point for Delphos St. John’s last year, had five points, five rebounds and injected a calming presence at the point.
“Last year (at St. John’s) I played point guard and had to take control of the game and be in charge,” Bacome said. “So I took those skills I learned last year and used them here. I try to draw fouls, get to the line and try to make as many free throws as I can to help my team.’’
Added Billiter, “She (Bacome) was the difference maker. She’s my coach on the court.’’
Wheeler made a fast-break layup and Bacome sank one free throw to give Elida a 40-38 lead with 15 seconds left.
Findlay missed a final shot from the corner and Bacome scrambled across the floor for the rebound just before the horn sounded.
Bacome picked up in basketball where she left off as a midfielder on the Western Buckeye League championship girls soccer team this fall.
Findlay won the boards 38-28.
Emily Heiman paced Findlay with 14 points and three 3-pointers.
Brittney Haas scored 11 points with 11 rebounds and two threes.
Bath 43, New Knoxville 27
Both teams struggled from the field.
But Bath’s press forced 22 New Knoxville turnovers.
And many of those led to driving layups for Bath.
“We didn’t have a very good shooting night at all,” Bath coach Greg Mauk said. “And if you’re going to have an off night shooting, you better be pretty good, defensively. We won the rebounding battle, we won the turnover battle and we also won the steals. We got extra possession and that was the difference in the game.’’
Lindsay Singhaus paced Bath with 13 points and seven rebounds.
“She had a really nice game,” Mauk said. “We need some balance in our offense. We’re going to have to have scoring by committee a lot of times.’’
Kaleigh Ketcham and Madelyn Renner both scored seven points. Jaidyn Hale had five points and six assists.
Ruby Bolon, a 5-11 freshman, had three points, five rebounds and three blocks in her debut.
Erin Scott had 11 points for New Knoxville. Megan Jurosic had eight points and 12 rebounds.
Bath won the boards, 36-29.
Bath shot only 25 percent from the floor and was 5 of 28 on 3-pointers.
The Rangers shot 35 percent and were 1 of 6 on 3-pointers.
Bath led 22-13 at the half, then outscored the Rangers 14-6 in the third quarter. That gave the Wildkittens a 36-19 lead after three quarters.
Bath has won the last four Tip-Off Classics and nine of the 13 Bath tournaments.
The Lima New sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.