SPENCERVILLE — It’s not how you start that counts, it’s how you finish.
That sums up Friday’s Northwest Conference boys basketball matchup between Spencerville and Columbus Grove.
Columbus Grove got off to a quick start. But Spencerville picked it up in the second half and pulled away with a 66-55 victory over the Bulldogs.
With the win, Spencerville remains undefeated in the NWC at 4-0 and is 7-4 overall. Columbus Grove slips to 7-5, 2-2 NWC.
Columbus Grove got off to a quick start — pushing out to a 10-point lead at one juncture of the first quarter.
Spencerville did not claim its first lead of the game until more than halfway through the third quarter.
Then, with Columbus Grove leading 42-40 after three quarters of action, Spencerville poured it on in the final eight minutes of the game, outscoring the Bulldogs 26-13 to come away with the victory.
Spencerville made 14 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter. For the game, the Bearcats made 23-of-31. Columbus Grove was just 7-of-16 from the charity stripe, 2-of-3 in the fourth quarter.
“That’s usually the easiest way to score,” Spencerville coach Kevin Sensabaugh said with a smile. “But for us, I think we came into the game shooting about 59 percent as a team at the free throw line. …And it didn’t start out too well in the first half.
“But in the second half, we started to get some confidence and we started making them.”
Three players scored in double figures for Spencerville. Ben Bowers — who poured in nine points in the first quarter — ended the night with 19 points, including three 3-pointers. Zach Goecke scored 17 points, including 7-of-7 shooting from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Dominick Corso, a 6-foot-4 center, scored 14 points and pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds. Derek Goecke added nine points, seven rebounds and two steals for the Bearcats.
Jace Darbyshire led Columbus Grove with 16 points, including three shots behind the arc. Collin Grothaus added 10 points with two 3-pointers.
For the game, Spencerville shot 34 percent from the floor, while Columbus Grove shot 50 percent.
“Our guys played with unbelievable effort tonight,” Sensabaugh said. “And I thought that was the one thing that has been missing to this point. We talked about that during the week and we talked about it before the game. I just thought we played extremely hard. Our guys really competed and it was fun to watch.”
Columbus Grove led 17-13 at the end of the first quarter. The Bulldogs withstood several runs by the Bearcats in the second period, to come away with a 30-28 lead at the break.
Spencerville recorded its first lead of the game on an old-fashion three-point play by Zach Goecke, giving the Bearcats a 34-31 lead, with 3:24 left in the third quarter.
By the end of the third stanza the Bulldogs reclaimed the lead 42-40. Columbus Grove was 5-of-7 shooting from the field in the third period, while Spencerville was 3-of-14.
In the final period, however, Spencerville took it to the basket at every opportunity, drawing the foul and then capitalizing at the free throw line.
“They were just more physical than us tonight. …That’s the bottom line,” Columbus Grove coach Ryan Stechschulte said. “Offensive rebounds, second chances, loose balls — things that we talked about after we got beat by Leipsic last Saturday — it hasn’t changed.”