ELIDA — Elida was in control of its own destiny as it entered Friday’s Western Buckeye League game with visiting Defiance.
Elida entered the game with one league loss. Bath also entered league play Friday against Celina with one WBL loss.
Elida took care of its business as it jumped out quickly on Defiance and pulled away for a 61-40 victory in boys basketball at the Elida Fieldhouse. Bath also won Friday, defeating Celina 64-62, to clinch a share of the WBL title with Elida.
Elida (14-8, 8-1 WBL) has now won back-to-back WBL titles for the first time in school history. Elida’s win on Friday also snapped a nine-game winning streak for Defiance.
Dakota Mathias led Elida with a game-high 30 points. The 6-foot-4 junior also pulled down eight rebounds and dished out five assists. Aric Thompson scored 11 points and had two steals for Elida.
Jordan Tobias led Defiance (15-6, 5-4) with 10 points and nine rebounds. Trey Guilliam added eight points, including two shots behind the arc.
“I think there was more excitement than pressure,” Mathias said about Friday’s game. “Elida has never went back-to-back (WBL championships) and to be the first group to do that is really exciting.”
Mathias said his teammates are starting to find their roles.
“For us to be as good as we can, I have to do that — to get everyone involved. And we’re becoming a better team throughout the year because of that. When they (his teammates) play the way they have been the past couple of weeks, then we’re a tough team to beat. And hopefully we can carry that over into the tournament,” he said.
Mathias took control in the first quarter, scoring seven points as Elida came out with a 14-4 lead at the first stop. Defiance made just 1-of-11 shots from the floor.
Mathias scored seven more points in the second stanza, while Thompson and Austin Allemeier (three points, four rebounds) each hit a 3-pointer to lead Elida to a 27-16 advantage at the break.
In the second half, Elida made 12-of-26 shots from the field, while Defiance made 9-of-26 from the floor. Mathias took it over in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points, including 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
“I thought we did a pretty good job defensively,” Defiance coach Kirk Lehman said. “They had other guys step up. And I think Elida has done a better job throughout the season of getting the other guys involved.”
For the game, Elida shot 44 percent from the floor, while Defiance shot just 29 percent.
The two teams were nearly even on the boards, with Elida holding a slight 32-31 edge.
Defiance committed 12 turnovers, while Elida turned it over just six times.
Elida coach Denny Thompson praised his team’s defensive effort.
“I can’t say enough about our guys on their defensive effort. We really stepped up. And that’s kind of what we did last year. We’re kind of paralleling them (last season’s state runner-up team) a little bit, in terms of our growth defensively.”
Thompson feels his team is beginning to take on an identity as the tournament grows nearer.
“If we went back and looked at films of games earlier in the season, we would see our guys, at times, standing there watching Dakota. Now they’re out there playing with Dakota. They know if they move and they’re open, then Dakota is going to find them,” Thompson said.